Special equipment: a 2-quart oval baking dish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart oval baking dish.
For the creamed corn: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the corn and cream, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces in volume and bubbles rapidly, about 15 minutes. Transfer 2 cups of the corn mixture to a food processor, puree until smooth, then stir it back into the skillet. Fold in the ham and kale. Transfer the creamed corn to the prepared baking dish; set aside. Clean the food processor bowl.
For the cornbread topping: Pulse the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a food processor to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the cream and 1/2 cup of the Cheddar, and pulse until the batter just comes together.
To assemble: Sprinkle the cornmeal batter over the creamed corn. (Don't worry if the corn isn't completely covered; the batter will puff and spread as it bakes.) Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar. Place the casserole on a baking sheet, and bake until the corn is bubbling and the crust is puffed and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve with hot sauce.
When blending hot liquid, first let it cool for five minutes or so, then transfer it to a blender, filling only halfway. Put the lid on, leaving one corner open. Cover the lid with a kitchen towel to catch splatters, and pulse until smooth.
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