Friday, August 29, 2008

Kohlrabi Gratin

I have a secret love for kohlrabi. Kohlrabi has a wonderful, sweet flavor somewhere between turnip and broccoli. But you so rarely see it for sale anywhere that we mostly just dream about it. That's why we planted it in the garden this year--to satisfy our craving for kohlrabi anytime we like.

Our friend Larry calls kohlrabi "a little sputnik" because of its globe shape sprouting long leaf stems. It's not a root vegetable, but a swollen stem. Until recently, it never occurred to me that the leaves might be edible. That's something we'll have to try. Meanwhile, I usually prepare kohlrabi as simply as possible, just cutting it into large matchsticks, cooking it in salted water and tossing it with melted butter. But I wanted to do something that would really make kohlrabi shine. I thought it would be a perfect candidate for a gratin.

I make a delicious rutabaga gratin, and a dynamite sweet potato gratin stuffed with wilted greens. A classic potato gratin has fans who are very particular about the way it is cooked in the oven. So I consulted Madeleine Kamman--who is just about the most finicky cookbook author I know, and a damned good instructor--to see what she had to say about the classic gratin method.

There's nothing particularly difficult about the method Kamman describes. In fact, it could hardly be simpler: use lots of heavy cream and let is bake a long time. As the cream browns, scrape it from around the edges of the casserole and push it from the surface under the cream underneath. Continue doing this until there is hardly any cream left, and what cream there is is studded with brown bits.

For a kohlrabi gratin:

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon butter

1 lb kohlrabi, trimmed and peeled (I used a serrated knife to remove the peel)

coarse salt

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup grated cheese (combine Parmesan with Emmentaler)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Rub the inside of a small, shallow ceramic casserole with the garlic. Grease it with the butter. Meanwhile, slice the kohlrabi very thinly. You may want to first cut it in half from end to end. Lay the kohlrabi slices in the casserole overlapping like shingles, seasoning them with salt as you go. You may make two or three layers. Cover with the cream and shake the casserole a little to distribute the salt.

Lay the casserole on a baking sheet and place in the oven. As the cream browns, break it up and push it under the cream underneath, scraping any brown bits from the side of the casserole and incorporating those as well. Continue doing this for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the kohlrabi is perfectly tender and the cream has been almost completely absorbed. Sprinkle the cheese over the gratin and continue baking until the cheese is completely melted and lightly browned. Serve hot.

We had this last night with a wonderful salad of fresh tomatoes from the garden with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. This is not something we would eat on a daily basis. But for now, my craving for kohlrabi is completely and utterly indulged.

8 comments:

mrtumnas said...

Wow, that looks delicious. Kohlrabi is definitely an under-rated vegetable. The fact that it looks like a weird-alien-head-thingie is reason alone to grow and use it.

Julia said...

This is great! I love Kohlrabi too, and there just aren't enough recipes out there. I'm making this recipe this weekend!

Tiffany said...

I just discovered kohlrabi this spring. It is so delicious! We used it to make an Asian inspired slaw salad (mmm) and oven roasted chips(see http://virginiafoodie.typepad.com/gardenapartment/2008/06/kohlrabi-three-ways.html).
However, as the cool fall days approach, this recipe sounds like it will be very satisfying. Thanks for sharing, and I can't wait to try it out.

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

It also makes pretty good pancakes. Just substitute grated kohlrabi for potatoes in any potato pancake recipe. They're usually starchy enough to hold together the way grated potatoes will. Maybe I should grow some next year to see how they'd do in my area.

Jen (Modern Beet) said...

this sounds great! until now I've only eaten kohlrabi raw or pickled -- I'll have to give this a try (though with the 95 degree heat in the bay area right now, a creamy gratin may need to wait for cooler times)

LimeSarah said...

Ooooo...that sounds *amazing*

The leaves are almost indistinguishable from small collard greens; they're delicious!

Ed Bruske said...

Mr.T, it is great. And when you bite into it, you'd never know it was kohlrabi--unless you were a kohlrabi fanatic like us.

Julia, you are definitely right--there aren't nearly enough good recipes for kohlrabi. What can we do to fix that?

Tiffany, I like the idea of kohlrabi slaw. Whay not? It's in the same family as cabbage.

Kate, pancakes is a new one. Who waoulda thought? So we're placing kohlrabi somewhere between cabbage (slaw) and potato (pancake)?

Jen, pickled kohlrabi? Yet another revelation. But now that you mention it, I have been thinking of kohlrabi as a candidate for kimchi.

Sarah, next year I will definitely be focusing on the kohlrabi leaves. For now, I think they're a little past their prime.

Stacey said...

I love Kohlrabi!
I like this gratin idea. I usually eat mine raw in a salad or quick pickled in a slaw.