This recipe from northern France reminds me of mac ‘n cheese in that you take something that is prepared on the stovetop and is, essentially, ready to eat, and put it in a casserole and bake it for a while before, finally, eating it. Why the extra step, the extra labor? Because the flavors deepen and expand and the heat of the oven creates a crustiness that would not be possible otherwise. My way of saying to take what is essentially creamed greens and hard-boiled eggs, which is fine eaten together, combine them and bake it, and you have a really delicious gratin, a dish greater than the sum of its parts.
A note: As different greens yield different amounts when cooked, I’m giving a recipe amount for cooked greens. Two pounds of spinach cooked will not equal 2 pounds of cooked kale, for example.
4 c or so cooked greens
1/3 c dry bread crumbs
1 t crumbled dried herb
1 T vegetable oil, plus extra if needed
2 T butter or oil, plus extra for baking vessel
2 T flour
1 1/2 c milk or half-and-half or cream or a combination
1/2 t grated nutmeg, or taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c or so grated cheese
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease an 8″ x 8″ baking vessel, or similar.
2. If necessary, drain greens. When cool enough to handle, squeeze them to get rid of excess moisture. Put into a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Combine bread crumbs, dried herb, and vegetable oil. If the crumbs seem a bit dry, add a little more oil. Set aside.
3. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir or whisk constantly for a couple of minutes until the flour darkens and loses its rawness. Slowly add the milk, whisking to disperse any lumps. Bring just to a simmer, stirring, until the mixture (béchamel sauce) thickens. At any point, add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat and add to greens. Stir to combine.
4. Transfer greens mixture to prepared baking vessel. Smooth out. Sprinkle with cheese. Arrange egg halves, cut side up, on the top. Gently press into the sauce so that the egg halves are level with the sauce. Sprinkle with bread crumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 25 – 30 minutes, until browned.