- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 50 minutes
- Serves 4
Need a warm and cozy pick-me-up at the end of a long day? This lentil gratin strewn with sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and kale and crowned with mustardy chèvre crumbs is just the ticket. The entire dish comes together in one pan—not only a boon for assembly and cleanup, but also for building bold, savory flavors from the bottom up. Even better, by baking the lentils in a hot oven (uncovered) versus simmering them on the stovetop, the flavors get ultra-concentrated and the lentils cook gently and evenly, with no worry about mushy results. The crispy, cheesy crumbs amp up the flavors and textures even more. The finished dish is hearty and satisfying, with an effort-to-reward ratio that’s pretty unbeatable no matter the night or occasion.
Using this recipe as a template, pretty much everything is customizable. Swap chunks of carrots, parsnips, or winter squash for the sweet potatoes. Reach for other sturdy greens, such as Swiss chard, mustard greens, or collards, instead of kale. Feel free to play around with the topping as well. Torn mozzarella, crumbled feta, or shredded aged cheddar are all swell stand-ins for the chèvre, and finely chopped nuts make a nice addition to the panko breadcrumbs. If you don’t have French lentils, an equal amount of green or brown lentils can be substituted. Since different varieties of lentils have different cooking times, just monitor their doneness in the oven and add a bit more liquid, if needed, until they’re cooked through. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
It's the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we're hungry. Like, "can't-think-straight" hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner's Ready, her twice-a-month column on weeknight wonders, Emily shares simple, flavor-packed recipes that'll have a good meal on the table in no time. —The Editors
olive oil, divided
large Vidalia or yellow onion, thinly sliced
large sweet potato (¾ to 1 pound), chopped into ¾-inch pieces
garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
red pepper flakes, or to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped kale (Tuscan or curly; from about ½ medium bunch)
1 1/2 cups
(14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, plus juices
3 1/2 cups
(4- to 5-ounce) log chèvre (fresh goat cheese), plain or herbed, crumbled
- Heat the oven to 400°F. In a 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan or skillet with 2-inch sides (or a 3 1/2-quart braising pan), heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the sweet potatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the outsides of the sweet potatoes start to lose their firmness.
- Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly and reducing the heat as needed to avoid burning, for 2 to 3 minutes, until it caramelizes and changes in color from bright to brick red.
- Add the kale, lentils, diced tomatoes (plus their juices), water, and 1¾ teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a rapid simmer for 3 minutes.
- Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir the lentils and pat them back down in the pan. Continue to bake for about 15 minutes more, until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Meanwhile, prepare the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, stir the mustard and the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the panko, ¼ cup at a time, tossing and stirring until the crumbs are coated in the mustard and oil. Mix in the chèvre; season with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Scatter the topping evenly across the top of the lentils.
- Heat the broiler (to medium if your broiler has different settings) with the oven rack about 8 inches from the heating element. Broil, checking often and rotating the pan a few times, for 2 to 4 minutes, until browned and crunchy. (Tip: Lightly rake or stir the crumbs a few times to ensure they get evenly browned and crunchy.) Alternatively, bake the gratin for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the topping is golden brown. Serve warm.