Kale Gratin with Italian Sausage

 Greetings from the West Coast headquarters of the Circle B Kitchen!  For a couple of weeks we're going to be trading in our winter boots for flip flops and soaking up a little spring sunshine.  Things aren't quite as lushly spring-like on the Central Coast these days, owing to the drought, but that big ol' blue ocean is as wet and beautiful as ever and we're grateful for its constance.

So here I am in my tiny but much beloved Circle B Kitchen West getting ready to head down to Giovanni's on the wharf and nab us some fresh fish for the grill, but before I do, I thought I'd share with you a little special something that we're going to be enjoying alongside that beautiful fish.

In the month before we left home, I made this gratin a couple of times... The first time because it sounded so good, and the second time because I couldn't believe how good it actually was.  And I'm making it again because it has been confirmed… this stuff is exceedingly tasty. 

This gratin is one of my favorite things that I've made in recent weeks.  The flavors just pop and the crunchy topping is so perfect with the creamy kale.  My only complaint is that it isn't more photogenic.  I wanted so badly to produce a photo that would convey to you the luscious deliciousness of this gratin, but alas, it refused to cooperate, and I’m afraid you’re stuck with mostly just my word on this.  But I kid you not, it’s frightfully scrumptious. 

And pretty easy to throw together, especially if you have access to a bag of already cleaned and chopped kale. 

The original recipe calls for 2 heads of kale, but I halved the recipe for us and used this one 10-oz bag and it seemed about perfect.  Well, everything about this recipe is perfect, which is why it seems just the right thing to serve with our first bite of ever-so-fresh halibut this evening.  But I would be just as excited to be eating it all by itself.  It’s that good.  Here’s the recipe…

Kale Gratin with Italian Sausage

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of the L.A. Times

This is one of our favorite ways to eat kale, and to make it just a little easier to throw together, I used bagged kale that has already been cleaned and chopped, but I sort through and take out any large stem pieces that might be left in there.  Two 10-oz bags should work about right for this.  I halved the recipe and used 1 bag and it worked great.  To make this a vegetarian dish, or a lighter side dish, just leave out the Italian sausage.  It still tastes great! 

Servings: 6 to 8 

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound fresh mild Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 bunches (about 1 pound) kale, stemmed and torn into large pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (such as a combination of parsley, oregano and basil) 

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. 

2. In a large, heavy-bottom saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the sausage and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. 

3. Add the wine and cook, scraping the flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the wine reduces and is mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium. 

4. Stir in the kale, one handful at a time. Cook the kale, stirring it in with the sausage, until it begins to wilt and turn a bright green. Continue adding kale by the handful until it is all added to the saute pan and is just wilted. Do not overcook the kale. Remove from heat and set the pan aside. 

5. In a large saucepan, melt one-half cup (1 stick) butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a roux. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to get rid of any lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 

6. Crumble the goat cheese to the sauce and whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, then stir in the sausage and kale. Remove from heat. 

7. Spoon the mixture into a shallow, 2-quart gratin dish. 

8. In a medium bowl, combine the Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs and minced fresh herbs. Pour over the 3 tablespoons melted butter and stir until the butter is evenly distributed to form the topping. 

9. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sausage and kale mixture. 

10. Bake the gratin until the topping is golden-brown and the filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes. 

11. Cool slightly before serving.

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