So, you looked at the title of that and thought "ugh," right? That sounds exactly like some hippie crap they'd feed you in the 70's while enthusing about the benefits of a macrobiotic diet and frequent colon cleanses. And then they'd give you carob-tofu cheesecake for dessert. I mean, kale AND brown rice? For real?
OK well banish that thought from your head, because this is fucking delicious. I bought it frozen from Beechers, thought it was scrumptious, and attempted to re-create the recipe myself. The first time, it was good enough that one of my dinner guests put back everything else on her plate and just ate three helpings of the gratin. The second time, last night, I took it to a dinner party and everyone raved about it, even the guy who hates kale. In fact that guy took seconds.
This is a great holiday dish, because in addition to being delicious, it also has whole grains and dark green leafy vegetables in it. It's a pretty good antidote to a table that, traditionally, is basically a huge pile of carbs and fat. Not that this is fat free; far from it, though it's not like my creamed onions recipe. But the extra fat doesn't take away the nutrition of the other ingredients, you know.
The two things to be aware of are 1) the brown rice takes forever and a damn day to cook and 2) the kale must be chopped really, really, really fine. This is a time for your good knife and a big cutting board.
1 large shallot
6 tbsp butter, divided in two
2 cups SHORT GRAIN brown rice
6 cups of whole milk
1 large bunch kale, enough to make 2 cups when finely, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon stock concentrate (chicken or vegetable)
6-8 ounces of extremely sharp cheddar-style cheese; I've used Beecher's Flagship, but you could probably experiment
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
Melt half the butter in a large (LARGE) frying pan, fait-tout, or wide saute pan. I suppose you could use a 4.5 quart or larger saucepan too. Anyway, dice the shallot fine and saute in the butter until it is starting to brown. Add the rice and cook for a couple of minutes over high heat, then add the milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the rice is no longer aggressively chewy. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, mustard, and stock concentrate, and return to a simmer. The mixture will still be somewhat spludgy at this point.
Chop the kale extremely, extremely finely, almost as though it were an herb rather than a vegetable. Stir the chopped kale into the rice mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until it goes from dark green through bright green and into a sort of a dull, overcooked-looking green. Kale is not a tender vegetable; it can take it. At this point, the mixture should have absorbed enough liquid that you could scoop it with a slotted spoon without leaving too much liquid behind. Scrape it into an 11x17" baking dish.
Grate the cheese and top the gratin with it. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of the cheese; melt the rest of the butter, and drizzle it on top of the bread crumbs. Bake in a hot oven (350, or whatever the other things you're cooking need, it isn't particular) until the cheese is bubbly and the bread crumbs are browned. Serve and eat.