Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Baby Swiss

Since I discovered the joys of the raw kale salad, we've rarely eaten kale any other way.  Sure, we'll slice some up and toss it into a soup now and then, but for the most part, we've been content to let it sit in a vinaigrette until it "cooks" a bit, throw in some nuts and dried fruit, and call it a day.  However, this gratin has reminded me that (actually) cooked kale still deserves a place on the menu.  It is hearty and warming, contains nothing too complex or unhealthy, and is substantial enough for a great vegetarian main dish.  Omit the breadcrumb topping, and it's even gluten-free!

A couple of post-execution thoughts: the recipe calls for a wild rice blend of some kind -- the author is unspecific.  I used a mixture of long-grain brown rice and wild rice, both of which I had lying around, and that worked fine (see note).  I also had an ear of sweet corn lying around, so I sliced the kernels off the cob and threw them in too, which I think was a good idea, though certainly not essential.  Finally, though I'm absolutely willing to trust Deb when it comes to ingredients, we're not big Swiss cheese fans in my family, so I dialed back the quantity somewhat.  I wish I hadn't.  The dish didn't taste Swiss cheese-y to me at all, and it would have been more luxuriant with the full amount of cheese.  If one really doesn't like Swiss, I imagine some other melty cheese would work too.

adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

serves 10-12 as a side, or makes a couple of meals for a smaller group

5 cups cooked wild rice (from 1 2/3 cups uncooked)*

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups stemmed, ribboned kale leaves

2 cups coarsely grated Emmentaler or other Swiss cheese
1 ear sweet corn, kernels sliced off (about 3/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
table salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cook the rice according to package directions.*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, caramelize the onions: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onions, sprinkle with salt and a little pepper, and cook until they're tender and sweet, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.  Add the kale ribbons, and cook until they wilt a bit, about 5 minutes.  Stir together the onion-kale mixture, wild rice, corn, and 1 cup grated cheese in a large bowl.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Assemble the gratin:  Use 1 Tablespoon butter to generously coat a 2-quart baking dish.  Spread the wild-rice mixture into prepared pan and pour broth over it.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over gratin.  Toss breadcrumbs with 1 Tablespoon melted butter and salt and pepper to taste; sprinkle over cheese.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a little bubbly and beginning to brown on top.

*Note: I used 1 cup long-grain brown rice and 2/3 cup wild rice (as in, the long, narrow black grains).  There were no "package directions," so I cooked the rice like pasta: in lots of salted water, and drained through a colander once it was al dente.  It took between 20 and 30 minutes to cook; easy to get done while the onions are caramelizing.

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