Cheesy Collard Green Gratin

This gratin takes collards way over the top! It's rich and succulent and creamy and comforting and surprising. The salt of the pork and cheeses balanced with the slight bitterness of the greens negates any feeling of collards being a lowly green. You will have some cheese sauce leftover, but don't let it go to waste. Toss it with pasta and cooked bacon for another meal, or use it for eggs Benedict.
By / Photography By Fred Thompson | December 01, 2013

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325°.

Place ham on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 20–25 minutes; let cool and break into pieces.

Combine the breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp. of oil in a medium sauté pan and toast over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add thyme and 1/4 cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Mix in ham and set aside.

Cook the collard greens in a large pot of boiling, salted water until slightly tender and still bright green, about 7–10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Let drain a couple more minutes, then squeeze them as dry as possible with paper towels.

Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, about 15–20 minutes. Transfer to bowl with greens; set aside. Reserve saucepan.

Increase oven temperature to 400°.

Melt the butter in the reserved saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and very pale brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, a little at a time; add the nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and stir in the cheese, stirring until smooth and the sauce thickens. Whisk in remaining Calvander or Parmesan. You have just made a Mornay sauce. Pour about half the sauce into the collard green mixture and stir to combine. Add enough sauce to give the collards body – you may not use all of the sauce. Transfer collard green mixture to a 10-inch castiron skillet, large casserole dish, or 9-inch, deep-dish pie plate. Top with breadcrumb mixture; place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until gratin is bubbling, about 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly at least 5–10 minutes before serving.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. very thinly sliced American prosciutto or regular country ham
  • 1 cup coarse unseasoned breadcrumbs (panko is a good choice)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Chapel Hill Creamery
  • Calvader or Parmesan, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh collard greens, center ribs and stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 large (about 2 cups) onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cake, gravy, or soft wheat flour (like White Lilly)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup aged Swiss-style cheese, like Gruyere (we used Chapel Hill Creamery's Thunder Mountain)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
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