So Thanksgiving can be kind of a tricky holiday. With some families, there are certain dishes that have to be on the table. Non-negotiables, if you will. And these dishes must be made a specific way. No riffing, substitutions, or changes. Don't even try to pull a fast one and use fresh green beans instead of frozen or canned in the green bean casserole, for example. Or put apples, sourdough, and bacon in the dressing (I've made that mistake, and barely lived to tell the tale). And that's fine. Thanksgiving is about tradition.
Other families like to use the holiday to mix things up and try new dishes. Rack of lamb on Thanksgiving? Why not? The important thing if that you're spending the day with your loved ones and eating delicious food, so who cares if it's nontraditional?
I like to think I'm somewhere in between. I do like the standards on Thanksgiving: turkey and gravy, sweet potatoes, dressing, and cranberry sauce. But I also like mixing things up - maybe a unique dessert or new side here and there. Or a twist on a traditional dish.
I'd like to think that this wild rice gratin would appeal to both sets of people. It's cheesy, comforting, and seasonally appropriate, but it's a little more special than your typical rice casserole. There are sweet caramelized onions, hearty kale, and wild rice. Oh yeah, and a cheesy, crunchy, buttery topping. With bubbly gruyere cheese. Oh yes, this is good stuff.
However you choose to eat your Thanksgiving dinner, I'd highly suggest that you make this gratin a part of it. If you have vegetarians to serve, you could even add some quinoa or lentils to make it a complete protein - missing out on the turkey isn't so bad after all!
Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Gruyere
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
serves 10 to 12 as a side
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice
- 3 Tbs butter, divided
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 4 cups stemmed, ribboned kale leaves
- 2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
Rinse the rice thoroughly, then drain. Boil 4 1/2 cups of water in a medium saucepan, and stir in the rice. Cover, return to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the components to the gratin: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to generously grease a 2-quart baking dish.
Caramelize the onions: Heat the olive oil and and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and cook until they are tender and golden-brown, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the kale ribbons, and cook until they wilt, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wild rice, 1 cup of the grated cheese, and the broth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
Spread the mixture into the prepared dish, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Toss the breadcrumbs with the last remaining tablespoon of butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the cheese, and bake the gratin until it is bubbly and beginning to brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve.