Brown Rice and Kale Gratin-from Hippy to Hip

(photo courtesy of Molly at Joie de Vivre)
This recipe should sound like one of those crunchy hippy recipes someone made in a co-op before serving carob brownies for dessert, right?  Think again my friends!  I’ve grown to love, love, love brown rice over the past few years (my sure-fire method for cooking it is here) and kale is high on the list too.  My tastes have migrated from spinach to chard to kale (and even through in dandelion and beet greens on occasion).  Any of those greens would work in this dish (even broccoli if the kids are more likely to eat it).
When a friend in Seattle told me about the Fresh Kale and Brown Rice gratin from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese I was hooked.  Now, I live in San Francisco but my heart is in my hometown of Seattle.  I even know one of the guys behind Beecher’s and have followed their massive rise to success over the years.  If you’re in Pike Place Market, be sure to check them out, and use their cheese in this recipe if you can get it.

Since I’m in SF I decided to set about making my own gratin instead of buying it and shipping it down. Cheaper and easier, and I like cheap and easy.  I searched for a recipe online and found this version on a sweet Seattle-based blog called Joie de Vivre.  Molly made hers from scratch and inspired my own version of the recipe. She used short grain brown rice but I only had long (brown basmati) and always prefer it because it doesn’t get so gummy.  Her recipe also called for “stock concentrate”, which isn’t something in my pantry.  I had homemade chicken stock in the fridge and used a few tablespoons of that instead (of course sub veggie stock if you’re keeping it vegetarian).
The result?  An incredibly creamy dish that, in my opinion, could sub for mac and cheese any day of the week.  Because the rice is cooked in milk it takes on a pudding like consistency.  The crunchy topping of cheese and breadcrumbs adds the perfect texture contrast.  If you’re going gluten free I think coarsely chopped almonds would be nice over the cheese as well.   To be honest, we ate ours so fast I didn’t have time to take a photo.  The lovely pic above is a spitting image of mine and comes courtesy of Molly-thank you!
So toss aside those Birkenstocks and be proud of this dish that has gone from hippy to hip.

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Kale and Brown Rice Gratin
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallot
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup brown basmati rice
3 cups whole milk
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons good quality chicken or vegetable stock
½ bunch Lacinato kale (chard or spinach work too), stems removed and leaves cut into very thin ribbons
4 ounces sharp cheddar or Gruyere cheese
¼ cup panko breadcrumns (or coarsely chopped slivered almonds)
In a deep sauté pan (I used a saucier, which was perfect), melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallot with a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until translucent but not browned, about 3 minutes.  Add the rice and cook, stirring, until it is well coated with the butter and shallots.  Stir in the milk with another pinch of salt, bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a low simmer.  Cover the pan and cook until the rice is just tender with a bit of a bite and has absorbed almost all of the milk, about one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter an 8-inch baking dish.
Stir in the nutmeg, cayenne, stock, and Dijon then add the kale.  Cook, stirring and uncovered, until the kale just begins to wilt and brightens in color, 2-3 minutes.  If you like your kale more tender you can cook it another couple of minutes.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and top it with the grated cheese.
In a small skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and add a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Stir in the panko and mix well.  Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the cheese. 
Bake the gratin until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, 30-40 minutes.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. 


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One Response to Brown Rice and Kale Gratin-from Hippy to Hip

  1. kd says:

    Made this the other day. Loved it! Had it at lunch and dinner. Always looking for a good casserole. Thanks Jodi!

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