This recipe is the hands-down best way to introduce greens to picky eaters. It’s a tad rich, but oh so delicious. Perfect with a roast leg of lamb or a roast chicken on those cool nights in early spring (and, um, late spring and early summer on the Vineyard). You can make the gratin in mini sizes (four 1-cup ramekins or two 2-cup gratin dishes) or in one 4-cup shallow gratin dish.

While you could use just about any green here (don’t use baby greens – wait until they’re teenagers or young adults), I think Swiss chard or Tuscan kale are the nicest. To keep things simple, I’ve limited the recipe to these two in order to give you the exact amount of greens you’ll need.  

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter (more for dish)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 ounces Canadian bacon, cut into medium-large dice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1¾ pounds Swiss chard or 1¼ pounds Tuscan kale, ribs removed, leaves chopped coarsely
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, or a combination of Parmigiano and another hard cheese such as gruy√®re, emmental, or aged gouda
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
     

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the inside of one shallow 4-cup ceramic gratin dish or casserole dish or two 2-cup shallow dishes or four 1-cup ramekins with a little softened butter.

2. Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Melt one tablespoon of butter and add it to the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt. Toss to combine thoroughly.

3. In a medium skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of butter over medium heat. Add the Canadian bacon and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate.

4. Add another 2 teaspoons of butter to the skillet. When it has melted, add the greens (and if using Tuscan kale, also add 1/4 cup water), and a pinch of salt. Cover loosely and cook, stirring frequently, until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes for the chard and about 4 minutes for the kale (the excess moisture should be mostly gone). If the skillet is too small for all the greens at once, do them in two batches.

5. Transfer the greens and the bacon to the gratin dish (or dishes, dividing evenly). Let cool slightly. Sprinkle the cheese over the greens and bacon (again, dividing evenly if using more than one dish).

6. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and the garlic to a boil over medium-high heat (watch that it doesn’t boil over), immediately lower the heat, and simmer vigorously until the cream reduces to about 3/4 cup, 4 to 6 minutes. (Don’t over-reduce.) Take the pan off the heat and remove and discard the garlic cloves. Let the cream cool slightly, stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming. Season with a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

7. Pour the cream over the greens, bacon, and cheese in the gratin dish, making sure it settles into the nooks and crannies. Top with buttered breadcrumbs.

8. Bake until the gratin is brown and bubbly, about 22 to 25 minutes. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.