What to CookWinterCooking with Scraps

The Goldilocks of Gratins: This One with Wintery Greens and Apple Is Just Right

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It was early on in our relationship when I asked my then boyfriend, now husband, what he’d like to eat and he responded with, “How about a gratin?”

I gave him a side eye combined with a nose wrinkle (I have nothing close to a poker face), and it was likely years before he dared to request one again.

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Gratin expectations.
Gratin expectations. Photo by James Ransom

In my defense, I’d really only had very hearty, overly rich gratins, where thin slices of potatoes were drowned and baked in copious amounts of cream and cheese, and although I love all of the individual components, together they felt far too heavy and one-note.

Eventually, though, I was introduced to other types of gratins—like Julia Child's Tian de Courgettes au Riz (and yes, tians count as gratins)—and I realized I’d unfairly written off an entire category of dish. The good gratins, in my eyes at least, are the ones with balance.

Which is why, when I stumbled across gingerroot’s Winter Greens and Apple Gratin I knew right away it would be a keeper. Gingerroot’s recipe collection is a constant source of scrap inspiration—see her recipes with celery hearts & leaves, stale bread, and cauliflower leaves—and her gratin is another welcome addition to the club.

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It's more flavorful than a standard spinach gratin (a little earthy from the beet greens and stems, and the apple gives it a hint of sweetness), it has just the right amount of bite (no mushy vegetables swimming in sauce here), and there's just the right amount of cream and Gruyère cheese (it tastes slightly indulgent, not overly so). Simply put, it's the Goldilocks of gratins.

The Goldilocks of gratins—this one is just right.
The Goldilocks of gratins—this one is just right. Photo by James Ransom

Gingerroot is a long-time member of Food52, and if you, too, have been around these parts for awhile now, you’re likely familiar with her, due to the impressive number of contest-winning and community pick recipes under her belt. If not, here’s a little bit more about her life in Honolulu and her devotion to cooking with scraps:

I joined Food52 around the same time that I started a vegetable garden and began a CSA subscription to a local organic farm. For years, the garden and my CSA box were easy sources of inspiration for creating recipes. It was the perfect synergy for me at the time: with a two-year-old and a four-year-old, a giant box of organic vegetables and whatever we grew in our garden bed, we all had to eat and we had a bounty to choose from! I've always loved food and eating, but cooking off the cuff, creating recipes was new to me.

Discovering Food52 was such a boon. Learning to cook with the support of a community of like-minded cooks—whether professional, excellent home cooks, or novice cooks, like me—it really changed the way I thought about food. Looking back, I'm especially thankful I learned to create recipes with the challenge of using every bit of my box and everything from our garden bed.

Four years ago we moved from our city house with our vegetable beds to the country. My two-year old and four-year old are nearly ten and twelve (eek!) and I've traded my garden beds for chicken-raising and waterfall gazing. At least until we can put in a fence to keep out the feral pigs.

Her Oscar party spread on the left, and on the right: "Gardener's Delight—inspired by my four-year-old son based on what we grew in our garden." Photos by gingerroot
On the left, "Feeding our adopted feral chickens with leftover CSA mango," and on the right, their domesticated chickens Photos by gingerroot

Ready to make the Goldilocks of gratins? Here it is:

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Winter Greens and Apple Gratin

Ec89bac4 d90d 46fb a336 04afd14d1e80  img 1958 gingerroot
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Serves 5 to 6
  • 1 1 big bunch of beet greens with stems (save the beets for another use - like beet cake!)
  • 1 to 2 bunches of some other kind of winter greens, such as collards, kale, Swiss chard, or more beet greens (you could even use some dandelion greens, although I would go with half a bunch and another full bunch of another kind of green).
  • *If using collards or kale, remove stem and tough center rib
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Fuji apple, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup vermouth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
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Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap? Tell me about it! Send me an email ([email protected]) or tell all in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!

Tags: gratins