Dishes that are “au gratin,” like this casserole of collard greens au gratin, sound a lot fancier and more complicated than they actually are. Au gratin is the French term used to describe a dish that’s layered with cheese (and sometimes butter, cream, or bechamel sauce), sprinkled with breadcrumbs, and baked in the oven; when it’s done, it emerges golden brown and bubbling hot. Sounds delicious, right?
You can make just about anything au gratin. Potatoes are the most famous, but pasta, fish, and all variety of vegetables can get the cheese and breadcrumbs treatment. In this case, collard greens take center stage to make an exciting weeknight veggie dish. Collard greens are super versatile. And in my mind there’s no better way of getting in your daily greens than with a side of cheese and breadcrumbs. Are you with me?
Probably because they sound so gourmet and are usually not very healthy, au gratin dishes aren’t a frequent weeknight dinner item. Thankfully, this recipe uses simple techniques and inexpensive, healthy ingredients so you can make any night a special occasion.
The first step to this delicious dish is to blanch the collard greens. In other words, you’ll very quickly boil the greens to soften the leaves. Then, you’ll strain the greens and dunk them into a bowl of ice cold water to arrest the cooking process. This method of prepping veggies helps to cook them very quickly, while still retaining their vibrant color. Every wonder how restaurants get their vegetables to be so crisp and colorful? This is how.
To save time, this Collard Greens Au Gratin dish can be prepared in advance. Simply prep everything except the breadcrumb topping, and store in the fridge overnight. Then, when you’re ready for dinner, simply sprinkle with breadcrumbs and pop it into the oven. Leftovers can be stored directly in the baking dish and reheated before serving.
Collard Greens Au Gratin
This simple preparation of collard greens in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with breadcrumbs and baked until golden brown is a nice way to make any weeknight dinner more special.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Hot water
- ½ tsp. sea salt or Himalayan salt divided use
- 2 bunches collard greens center ribs and stems removed (approx. 6 cups)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil divided use
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. ground white pepper
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup whole-grain Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400º F.
Lightly coat a 2-quart baking dish with spray. Set aside.
Heat water and ¼ tsp. salt in large saucepan over high heat.
Add collard greens; cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender-crisp and bright green. Drain collard greens and place in an ice bath for 10 minutes.
Drain collard greens; squeeze dry with paper towels. Coarsely chop. Place in a large bowl. Set aside.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Set aside.
Add onion mixture to collard greens; mix well. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet over medium-high heat.
Add flour; cook, whisking frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until flour is light brown.
Slowly add almond milk, whisking constantly. Season with remaining ¼ tsp. salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low; gently simmer, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened.
Add almond milk mixture and cheese to collard green mixture; mix well. Place in prepared baking dish.
Top evenly with bread crumbs.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling.
To make an ice bath, fill your sink (or a large bowl) with ice and cold water. Place collard greens in the ice bath for 10 minutes.
The Nutrition Facts box below provides estimated nutritional information for this recipe.