Chef's Kitchen: The Refinery's creamy kale and sausage casserole

By Virginia Johnson, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 10:14 AM EST

When you think of the recent restaurant renaissance in Tampa's Seminole Heights, it's hard not to think of Greg and Michelle Baker, owners of The Refinery and Fodder and Shine -- both in the 'Heights,' both along Florida Avenue.

In this installment of the Chef's Kitchen, Executive Chef Greg Baker offers a recipe at The Refinery for the holiday season filled with pot lucks and family dinners - a creamy comfort food casserole.

Kale and Sausage Casserole (Serves 4 as a side):

Bechamel Sauce:

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp all purpose flour

2 cloves

2 bay leaves

¼ onion

Sea salt to taste

Casserole:

½ lb country or breakfast sausage (your favorite brand)

¾ of an onion (left over from the béchamel) sliced thin

2 bunches kale, stems removed and chopped

1 ½ to 2 cups béchamel

Sea salt to taste

1 medium russet or yellow potato, cooked and sliced thin. You can roast it in an oven for about an hour at 350 degrees or microwave for about 10 minutes. Let the potato cool before trying to slice it.

To make the béchamel:

Heat two cups of milk in a saucepan over medium low heat. 

Add the ¼ onion, cloves, and bay leaves and a pinch of salt.

In another sauce pan, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour to make a roux. 

Stir until smooth, then add the roux to the milk and let everything simmer together for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the milk has thickened and the floury taste is gone. 

Season with a pinch of salt. 

Strain the béchamel to remove the onion, clove, and bay leaf.

To make the casserole:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

While the béchamel is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high heat and crumble the sausage into the skillet when hot. Stir the sausage every minute or two until the sausage is brown.

Add the onions, and cook for another three to four minutes, stirring often, until the onions are softened.  

Add a pinch of salt for seasoning.

When the onions are soft, add the potatoes along with another pinch of salt and let the potatoes crisp a little bit.

When the potatoes are crisp, add the kale along with a pinch of salt and stir. Cook for another three to four minutes until the kale has softened. Add the béchamel – a little more or a little less according to your taste – and stir to mix everything together.

Transfer the casserole to a baking dish (or leave in your skillet, if it’s oven proof), and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, until everything is bubbly and a little brown on top.