Wednesday, June 5, 2013

wild rice gratin with kale, caramelized onions, and baby swiss

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I've given myself a lot of credit on this blog for being what I'd like to call an "early adopter" of kale.  It certainly didn't hurt that I've just always liked the taste of dark greens, and once I moved to California and was exposed to the piles of Swiss chard, collards, and, of course, kale at weekend farmer's markets, it was easy to start trying different things and become a pro at cooking them well.  Technically, most people that live here have long been familiar with the most popular, super healthy veg on the block.

Over the last few years, I've discovered quite a few kale recipes that I love and prepare regularly.  I've written about baked rigatoni with kale, a big dish of comfort where strips of kale get toasty and brown amidst creamy, cheesy sauce and pasta.  And of course there is sweet potato and kale pizza, so good I could eat it every night and never tire of it.

Well, my friends, there is a new kale recipe in town, and it shot right up to the top of my list of favorites from the moment I read about it, in Deb Perelman's new cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  Even if it didn't contain kale, wild rice, and Swiss cheese (gruyere for me, please!), the odds of an SK recipe being anything other than delicious would be monumentally low.  Deb never lets me down!

An added benefit for the gratin is that it's perfect for little ones.  I have been, and continue to strive to prepare meals for us as a family instead of making separate meals for my little guy, but there are times when we're craving a deliciously greasy pizza from our favorite local spot, Pizza My Heart, or something else I might deem a bit too rich for him.  On those nights, you'll usually find a sliced avocado with scrambled eggs and toast on his plate.  That's no shabby dinner, mind you, but it feels more warm and wholesome for us to all be eating the same thing.

As you can see from the photo I've included, SK's gratin is a hit in our house.  Little A slurps up the caramelized onions and chopped kale like an old pro, loving every bite.  I will tell you that the inclusion of toasty bread crumbs and the aforementioned cheese certainly pushes the dish from something hearty and healthy to something heavenly and addictive.  Even though he is a great little eater, even my A probably wouldn't devour the dish with such relish minus the cheese and carbs.

Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Baby Swiss, adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

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

caramelized onions:
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 (from an 8-ounce or 225-gram bundle)

2 cups (8 ounces) coarsely grated Emmentaler or another Swiss cheese (I used gruyere)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon to grease the dish; 1 tablespoon melted, for crumbs)
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
Table salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the rice according to package directions (I  used a bag of wild rice from Trader Joe's).  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. 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 (Incidentally, the fact that the onions take a while to cook gives you time to chop the kale, grate the cheese, and gather other ingredients).  Add the kale ribbons, and cook until they wilt a bit, about 5 minutes.  Stir together the onion-kale mixture, wild rice, and 1 cup grated cheese in a large bowl.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed (I opted out of getting another bowl dirty and instead dumped everything into my baking dish).
3. Assemble the gratin.  Use 1 tablespoon butter to generously coat a 2-quart baking dish.  Spread the wild-rice mixture into prepared gratin 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.
4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a little bubbly and beginning to brown on top.

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