Monday, October 14, 2013

Caramelized Onion, Kale and Rice Gratin

There have been many, many kitchen epiphanies over the last 6 months I've been working at Bi-Rite. There is one standout that has transformed my little kitchen: Cheese.
Previously, aside from the occasional purchase of true Parmigiano Reggiano and Azur Blue cheese from the infrequent excursion to the Whole Foods cheese counter,  those giant blocks of supermarket bright orange cheddar, jack and mozzarella were little kitchen staples.
Our cheese counter at Bi-Rite is my Happy Place and my favorite part about working The Creamery-the area in the store where we sell our amazing hand made ice cream. I love the ice cream, but I love the cheese more and the position of the cheese counter smack-dab next to me all day long...well...let's just say that there are suckier ways to spend an 8 hour work day. So when I brought home a bunch of greens and was contemplating my usual brown rice/quinoa bowl, somewhere in the back of my brain I heard the word gratin. Coincidentally, my sister has been posting on her Facebook page, her kitchen explorations of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook I gave her for Christmas last year, so not to be outdone, I pulled out mine and made this. It's slight riff on one of my favorite recipes. 
In my kitchen, Twice Rescued Kale, Spinach, Dandelion Green, Caramelized Onion, Three Cheese and Brown Rice Gratin is a more fitting, if tedious title and probably not all that appealing I'd hazard to guess...but this one was off-the-hook good. I credit the cheeses. This pan was like crack. I finished the entire thing off, all by myself, in two days.
Earlier this week I came home with two new cheeses and I made this killer grilled cheese sandwich from smitten kitchen using what is now my favorite cheddar, Cabot Vintage Cheddar. It's perfectly sharp and melty. Unbelievably flavorful.  Along with it, I bought Beecher's Flagship Reserve, an English Clothbound Cheddar, which also produced a tasty grilled cheese sandwich. The Beecher's is harder, and flavorfully sharp. It can be used like a parmesan. I used the last bits of these along with some Parmigiano Reggiano. Good lord, I can't wait to make a mac and cheese with this.
Here's the recipe from the book. It's amazing.

wild rice gratin with kale, caramelized onions, and baby swiss
from the smitten kitchen cookbook

wild rice:

5 cups cooked wild rice (from 1 2/3 cups, 10.5 ounces, 300 grams uncooked)
        **I used brown rice because it's what I had on hand**

caramelized onions:

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon table salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups stemmed, ribboned kale leaves (from an 8 ounce or 225 gram bundle)
       **I used a mixture of kale, spinach and dandelion greens**

2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) coarsely grated Emmentaler or another Swiss cheese
     **my mix: Parmigiano Reggiano, Beechers Flagsghip Reserve Cheddar and Cabot Vintage Cheddar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon to grease dish, 1 tablespoon melted, for crumbs)
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup (60 grams) fine, dry breadcrumbs
table salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cook the rice according to package directions, but if you're like me and buy your rice in bulk and don't own a rice cooker, boil up a big pot of salted water, dump in your rinsed rice, boil the crap out of it until it becomes chewy and then drain the rice into a collander, flatten a piece of aluminum foil down onto the surface of the rice, add about a cup of water back into your cooking pot and turn the heat to high, put the colander back into the pot and cover, turning the heat to low once it's come to a boil. Steam the rice until it reaches the texture you like.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Meanwhile, caramelize the onions:
Heat the butter an 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, rice and one cup of grated cheese in a large bowl. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if you need to.
Assemble the gratin: Use 1 tablespoon of butter to generously coat a 2 quart baking dish. Spread the rice mixture into the dish and pour broth over it. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Toss bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon melted butter and salt and pepper to taste: sprinkle over cheese.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a little bubbly and beginning to brown on top.

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