Kale has enjoyed a moment lately, as we know. Without a trace of hipster irony, this kale and brown rice gratin is as rich and comforting as a pot of macaroni and cheese, but way less boring. It makes a great side to a hearty meal, and the leftovers reheat beautifully for lunch the next day.
The fancy thing here is the cheese sauce. If you haven’t made one before, don’t worry. It’s all a matter of having your ingredients ready, and there aren’t very many. Have your milk warm, your cheese grated, your whisk handy, and you can’t go wrong. There’s a reason why I have a whisk tattooed on my forearm. It’s a well-designed tool that makes a huge difference in your cooking game.
Mise en Place is a wonderful thing. When I start a recipe, I immediately create a list of the equipment and ingredients I will need. Prep your ingredients, prioritizing the easy jobs and leaving the fussy stuff (cheese sauce) for last. For this recipe you can get the rice cooking while you prep the kale; grate the cheese while the kale cooks and the milk heats up. Once you start the cheese sauce, everything else must be ready to go.
Season with salt and pepper every step of the way. Season the kale as you sauté it. Cook your rice in stock or broth, and a bit of salt. A bit of nutmeg or mustard powder might just make your cheese sauce *that* much better, so taste it and make it delicious before it all goes together. I use a blend of equal parts gruyere and white cheddar cheeses. Pick something with an interesting flavor that melts well; if you aren’t sure, ask a cheesemonger. They’ll steer you in the right direction.
I top my gratin with grated gruyere cheese, which melts into a delicious brown crust on top. Use a blend of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese if you’d like a bit of crunch.
Kale and Brown Rice GratinPrint Recipe
- 1 head lacinato (dinosaur) kale stemmed, washed, and chopped
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 cups medium-grained brown rice cooked in stock or broth
- 2T butter
- 3T flour
- 24oz/710 ml warm whole milk
- 2 cups shredded cheese (I used gruyere + sharp white cheddar)
- salt and pepper, (optional) nutmeg, garlic powder, chili flakes, mustard powder
- shredded cheese or buttered breadcrumbs for topping
Cook the rice any way you like (it tastes better cooked in stock or broth, just sayin')
While the rice cooks, prep the kale, garlic and shallots
Sauce the shallots and garlic in butter, cook until translucent
Add the kale to the shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Saute the kale until wilted. Turn the heat off and check your rice.
Once the rice is cooked (a bit under is ok), cover it and let it sit.
For the cheese sauce, heat 2T butter in a sauce pan.
Once the butter is foamy, add 3T all-purpose flour to the pot.
Cook the flour over medium heat for 2 min, stirring constantly.
Add the heated milk to the butter + flour mixture (aka roux), a bit at a time.
Once the milk is added, bring the liquid just to a boil.
Turn the heat off.
Add the cheese in handfuls, whisking to emulsify after each addition.
Taste and season to your liking.
Once the cheese has been totally incorporated, add the sauce to the rice and kale in a baking dish.
Mix everything together, check the seasoning and adjust if needed.
Top with shredded cheese or buttered bread crumbs.
Bake at 375°F/190°C until the top is browned and the contents are bubbly.