Lacinato Kale Gratin From 'A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus'

Kale is doused in heavy cream and a whole lot of cheese for a truly decadent oven-baked side. Jim Henkens

Let me preface this by saying that I instinctually balk at holiday displays set up in September—slow down, folks, I don't need a new tree-topper just yet. But I nonetheless feel I have to recommend that you go ahead and give a little forethought to your festive winter spread in light of this recipe from chef Renee Erickson's new cookbook, A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus. This is not for everyday—truly, I ate it for a regular old Monday night dinner, and have felt the need to do penance all week (except for having the leftovers for lunch for two days, because I'm not good at penance). If you're thinking "What? But it's kale!," please know that we are talking about kale that is doused in three cups of heavy cream and half a pound of cheese. An embarrassment of riches, certainly. Warm nutmeg brings it to life, and, in the oven, the top layer of kale gets crispy, and the rest goes silky under the weight of all that cream, which thickens into an unctuous sauce. It is beyond easy and beyond decadent—what more do you need out of a holiday dish? Oh, and it still counts as eating your vegetables.

Why I picked this recipe: I love kale, and I guess I can live with cheese and heavy cream, too (wink, wink).

What worked: This was delicious, without a doubt. I wanted to pick off the crispy, cheesy top and hoard it.

What didn't: It was crazy rich, but you know that going in. Still, I think it may be possible to reduce the cream a bit—it was rather soupy, especially when hot.

Suggested tweaks: I may try using two and a half cups of cream next time, but I'll almost certainly be making it for a special occasion, so I may well just go all in.

(c)2014 By Renee Erickson with Jess Thomson. All rights reserved. Excerpted from A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus: Menus and Stories by permission of Sasquatch Books.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 80 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

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  • 3 bunches lacinato kale (about 1 1/2 pounds total before trimming), tough ribs removed, chopped into 3-inch sections
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, such as Beecher’s Flagship, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Pile the kale in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar) baking dish. (It will seem like an overabundance of kale, towering above the pan’s edge, but you want it all.) Season the kale with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, then carefully drizzle the cream over it. Spread out the cheese slices over the kale.

  3. Place the gratin dish on a baking sheet to catch any cream that drips out as the gratin cooks. Bake the gratin for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the cream thickens and the cheese is nicely browned. (Err on the side of golden brown, as opposed to coffee brown, if you’re going to reheat the gratin again before serving.)

  4. Let the gratin cool for a few minutes, then serve.

    NOTE: If you’d like to make this a bit ahead of time, bake it as directed and let it cool to room temperature a few hours before dinner. Before serving, top the gratin with about 1/2 cup additional grated sharp cheddar cheese and reheat the gratin in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until it is bubbling again.