Seriously swoonable: kale, chicken sausage, wild rice, Gruyère cheese, mushrooms and caramelized onions baked until golden, crusty perfection.
Have you ever had the last bite of leftovers and felt a little sad? Dang, it was so good and now it’s gone. You make a note to self that you MUST make that again soon. Yup, that’s what I felt with this casserole.
I found the original recipe on the Half Baked Harvest blog. As usual, I made a few changes.
- Added an onion to the mushroom mixture.
- Changed the roux proportions a bit – less flour, more butter.
- Added chicken sausage.
- Cut the rice in half and used a mix of black and mahogany rice.
- Caramelized the sweet onions while the rest of the dish was sautéing, instead of cooking them at the end.
Black Japonica rice. Several months ago, I picked up a few packages of Lundberg Black Japonica rice when it was on sale. I decided to use it instead of wild rice in this recipe. I love wild rice, but am so glad I used this rice. Its flavor was nutty and sort of sweet, and meshed well with the other flavors in the dish.
Kale stems and ribs. Because of our CSA share, we cook a lot of greens in this house. And even during our weeks off from the CSA—our winter share is every other week—I end up buying greens from the farmers market. Most recipes tell you to use a knife to slice the thick ribs and stems away from the leaves. Sometimes that’s the best way to do that. You can go up and down the leaf or you can fold the leaf in half and slice once.
Or, you can put your fingers around the stem and pull your hand down, stripping the leaf from the stem with your hand until you get to the thin part of the rib, like you pull thyme or rosemary leaves off their woody stems.
But wait! You don’t have to throw those stem/ribs away. If they’re really woody, like the stems of some old collards are, then you might want to throw them on the compost pile—although a quick search will reveal recipes for using them. But if they’re kale, turnip, beet or other less woody-stemmed greens, you can chop them up and sauté them with your onions.
Affordable Gruyère. I hate it when I find a recipe, make a shopping list, get to the store, and the slim wedge of Gruyère that I want costs $14 or something like that. Ugh. Do I splurge or find a cheaper alternative? That used to be me. Now I stock up on Gruyère when I go to Trader Joes or BJs where it’s a lot less expensive and I freeze them in their packaging in sealable freezer bags. No more cheese conundrums.
I did some research before deciding to do this and found that hard cheeses like Gruyère freeze well. The cheese authorities don’t recommend freezing cheese that you will serve as is, but they say it’s no problem to freeze cheese that will end up being melted.
Saving time, washing pans. To make this recipe in the least amount of time, you’re going to need room on your stove for a saucepot for rice, a large skillet for the sweet onions, and a large deep pan for the rest of the dish. Start the rice right away because it takes the longest and you’ll need it for the casserole.
Once the rice is going, I start the sweet onions and let them cook. They require no maintenance for 25 minutes except occasional stirring. Then in another pan, I make the rest of the dish—the mushrooms, kale, sausage, white sauce, etc. If I’m done and the rice isn’t, I start cleaning up what I can. I use one more pan this way but it’s worth saving those 25 minutes.
Kale, Sausage and Wild Rice Casserole
You’ll need a medium saucepot to cook the rice, 2- to 3-quart casserole dish, large skillet, large deep pan and 2-cup microwave-safe liquid measuring cup (or small saucepan).
- 2 cups cooked wild or specialty rice – I used Lundberg Black Japonica (a mix of black and mahogany rice)
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 or 2 large sweet onions, sliced into thin rings
- 1/4 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 10 ounces to 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 large bunches of kale, woody stems removed, sliced into 1” ribbons – about 12 lightly packed cups of ribbons
- 9 ounces chicken and/or turkey sausage
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1-1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
Get your rice going, according to package instructions, if it’s not already cooked. Grease the casserole dish with cooking spray.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced sweet onions and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
While those onions cook down, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the deep pan over medium heat. Add the chopped yellow onions, mushrooms, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring only occasionally, until soft and a bit caramelized, about 7 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low, add garlic, thyme and nutmeg, and cook about 1 minute.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Stir the kale and sausage into the mushroom mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted. Push the ingredients as much as possible to the edges of the pan.
Add butter to the middle of the pan with the kale and let it melt. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
Combine the milk and chicken broth in the measuring cup. Microwave until warm. If you don’t have a microwave, heat the milk and broth in a small saucepan until warm.
Pour the milk/broth mixture into the pan with the kale, stir it into the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook about 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cream. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir the cooked rice into the kale mixture. Pour it all into the prepared casserole dish.
Sprinkle half the Gruyère over the casserole, then add the caramelized sweet onions and then top it with the remaining Gruyère. Bake the casserole for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the onions are crispy.
Inspired by Kale and Wild Rice Casserole, Half Baked Harvest
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