Tangy goat cheese and bitter greens are a classic pairing in warm salads, and they work equally well here. Be sure to use a shallow gratin dish rather than a smaller, deeper one, as the larger surface area helps reduce the cream. This rich, tangy gratin would be a great side for grilled lamb.
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Fill a 5- to 6-quart pot three-quarters full with water, add 2 tsp. salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Trim the greens of their lower stems and submerge the leaves in a large bowl of water, swishing to release any grit. Transfer directly to the boiling water and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste a leaf after 3 minutes; if it’s still tough or stiff, cook for 1 or 2 minutes more. Drain and spread the greens out on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a clean dishtowel to steam and release moisture, 10 to 15 minutes. Use the dishtowel to gently wring the greens and get rid of any remaining moisture.
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 3 Tbs. of the Parmigiano, and a pinch of salt.
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream and garlic to a boil, about 5 minutes. As soon as the cream has come to a vigorous boil (but before it boils over), remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the lemon zest and season with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir well and remove the garlic cloves.
Transfer the greens to a cutting board and chop them coarsely. Put them in a large mixing bowl and add the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano and the goat cheese. Using your fingers, mix well. Spread the mixture in the prepared gratin dish. Pour on the cream and stir gently with a spoon to distribute evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top the gratin evenly with the breadcrumbs. (There will be a lot of liquid; some of the crumbs will dissolve in it. The liquid will reduce in the oven and the top crumbs will get crisp.)
Bake the gratin until the crumbs are browned and the liquid has reduced below the crumb level (there will be a brown ring around the edge of the gratin), about 30 minutes. Serve warm.
Ken is lactose intolerant, so we used a mix of goat cheese, Parmesan (as in the recipe) and queso fresco, a moist farmer's cheese, like an unsweetened ricotta. To make up for the liquid, we added chicken broth. Delicious! In fact, the Italians rarely use large amounts of cream, and this somewhat less rich version is closer to what you would be served in Italy...
I have made this recipe several times now. It is a lovely, elegant, side dish. I highly recommend it!
Prepared as per the recipe, we enjoyed our first experience with dandelion greens. Will be made again.
I used baby ruby chard greens that we thinned from our garden and a fresh goat cheese from the local farmer's market. Will definitely be making this one again as the greens season kicks in. Can't wait to try the other greens recipes from this issue as well.
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