Carrie's Kitchen: Grateful for Gruyere cheese

OK, so it is Week 3 of me writing about foods that I am thankful for, and more importantly, it is eight days from Thanksgiving.
So far I have written about butter and sweet potatoes. I was going to go with one of my two favorite fruits, apples and blueberries, but I write about them all the time. So this week's food hero is cheese, or more specifically, Gruyere.
Gruyere is considered a hard yellow cheese and is named after a town in Switzerland, where it comes from, though it is very popular in France as well, I am told. A friend of mine who spent a semester in France told me Gruyere is the standard cheese in grilled cheese sandwiches there, which is probably the first thing that has ever made me want to go to France.
Gruyere's flavor can change with age and, of course, each maker produces a slightly different-tasting cheese, but I like it because I find it has an appealing gentle sweetness and saltiness, a creaminess without being too creamy or soft, and it can have a nutty or earthy flavor. It's not quite like Swiss cheese, though if you don't like Swiss cheese, you probably won't like Gruyere either.
It has such a strong flavor that you can often get away with using less of it in a recipe than you would of another type of cheese, kind of like Parmesan versus mozzarella.
I've used it with pastas and for my French onion soup and sometimes just as a complement to wine. And when I started looking for recipes to incorporate it into, I found two recipes within a minute that 1) seemed like an awesome way to incorporate it into a vegetable dish and 2) would also be perfect for Thanksgiving -- that is, if you have the oven space and time.
The first recipe is for a Brussels sprouts gratin. I had told my sister-in-law I was considering bringing a Brussels sprouts dish to Thanksgiving, probably with bacon, so this recipe for the gratin really caught my attention. It's a little richer than I was thinking, but then again, not everyone likes Brussels sprouts so it might be good to go heavy on the cheese sauce.
The second recipe is for a crispy baked kale with Gruyere, and this one looks even easier and like it wouldn't have to be piping hot to be enjoyed, either. You make your own croutons and then cook them and the kale together with the Gruyere in the oven - and it can even be made the night before and then just popped in the oven on the big day. With all the commotion of traveling with a baby, I really enjoy make-ahead recipes now.

Brussels sprouts gratin
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed of outer leaves and sliced in half
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 tablespoon butter
3 shallots, peeled, halved, and sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup whole milk
Thyme leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
Scant pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
4 ounces of grated Gruyere cheese, divided
1 teaspoon salt

Heat a large pot of salted water with 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt. Blanch the halved Brussels sprouts for 3 to 4 minutes, until just barely tender. Remove from pot, drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and set aside.
Place diced pancetta in a large pot on medium-low heat. Cook until most of the fat is rendered, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.
Add butter to the pot and melt on medium heat. Add the shallots and gently cook until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour to the butter shallot mixture to make a roux and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until the roux is incorporated into the milk. Cook over medium-low heat for several minutes, stirring, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of your spoon. Add fresh thyme and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Add 3 ounces of grated Gruyere cheese into the white sauce and stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Add half of the cooked pancetta back to the sauce. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8-inch by 2-inch gratin dish or casserole. Add the Brussels sprouts into the cheese sauce. Transfer the cheesy Brussels sprouts into the casserole or gratin dish. Sprinkle with the remaining pancetta and the remaining 1 ounce of grated Gruyere cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes until top is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Source: http://www.simplyrecipes.com


Crispy baked kale with Gruyere cheese
1 4-ounce piece of sourdough bread, crusts removed, bread torn into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds kale, large stems discarded, leaves chopped
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (3 1/2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the bread on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Let the croutons cool on the baking sheet.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the shallot, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 minutes. Add the kale, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the kale to an 8-inch by 10-inch glass baking dish. Scatter the cheese over the kale and top with the croutons. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the croutons are golden. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.
Make ahead: The recipe can be made through sauteing the kale. Store the croutons in an airtight container and the kale in the refrigerator overnight.

Source: http://www.foodandwine.com

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