Beecher’s Kale and Brown Rice Gratin with Smoked Cheese Sauce combines fresh kale and chewy brown rice with a luscious, smoked-cheese sauce. Perfect as a side dish or stand alone supper with a salad.
Without a doubt, my favorite afternoon activity we did while in town was exploring Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. As a foodie who’s especially into fresh food and farmers’ markets, this place was at the top of my must-see list.
To my surprise though, there was more to the market than the expertly staged produce and seafood stalls indoors. Across the narrow, cobblestone street stood specialty bakeries (I would have given my left arm to eat at Piroshky, Piroshky!) that epic Greek Yogurt stand, and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop.
Take away my gluten but please, not my cheese! I’ve never really been much of a bread girl – I’ve eaten burgers and brats without buns for years, for example, and the restaurant bread bowl is just kind of meh in my opinion. My idea of dinner nirvana is a big platter of assorted soft, smooth, hard, salty, savory, smoky, creamy, lovely CHEESE. Plus some rice crackers, fruit, berries and red wine, of course. I could eat this meal any night of the week. You?
At any rate, while strolling along the outside edge of the market we ducked into Beecher’s after my friend Lindsey raved about their luscious handmade cheeses. The line that snaked all the way to the back of the shop confirmed her suggestion, and we patiently waited in line for a few free samples while watching fresh cheese being made at the front of the store. After making our way up to the packed display case, and trying a few samples, I immediately fell in love with their creamy smoked cheese. It was definitely worth the wait!
I first tried smoked cheese a couple years ago and have been a huge fan ever since, using a few varieties in dishes like Caprese Pasta Skillet, Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteaks, Crock Pot Bourbon Chicken Sammies, and Breakfast Quesadillas. The Laughing Cow’s smokey Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle cheese wedges are amazing with sweet apple slices, too.
On the way out of the shop I spied a freezer case with a few frozen meals featuring Beecher’s cheeses, and this Gluten Free Kale and Brown Rice Gratin immediately grabbed my attention. Gluten free? Awesome. Kale? Love it. Brown Rice? My jam. Cheese? Yes, please!
Not having any way of getting the frozen meal on a plane, I snapped a photo of the ingredient list with my iPhone and vowed to recreate the dish at home.
Of course I didn’t know exactly what it tasted like, so I used my instincts and worked in some smoked cheese as a nod to the sample I tried at Beecher’s, as well as my favorite fontina cheese, and made my own version at home…then nearly had to pull a Miranda Hobbs and drizzle the whole thing with dish soap because I could not stop eating it!
Sauteed kale and caramelized onions, chewy brown rice, and smoked cheese sauce are baked then dished up as a decadent side dish, or main meal with a side salad. Beyond the awesome textures of kale and brown rice going on here, the sweet caramelized onions were incredible with the smokey cheese sauce. This dish would actually be perfect with some leftover Easter ham thrown in – the smokey flavors would taste delicious together!
Start by cooking 1 cup brown rice in 2 cups chicken broth (could use vegetable broth to make this dish vegetarian) according to package directions. Mine took about 40 minutes, which is just the amount of time you need to prepare the rest of the dish.
Next start caramelizing 1 jumbo sweet onion. Cut the onion in half then into thin slices.
Add the slices to a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat with 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt, then cook until the onions are golden brown and very tender, stirring every so often. Mine took about 25 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, turn your attention to the kale. You’ll need 4 cups packed lacinto kale, which is about half a big bunch. You could use curly kale too – whichever you like better!
Slice the kale leaves off the stem, then stack and zip through ‘em with your knife to shred.
Once the onions are soft and caramelized, add the kale plus 4 minced garlic cloves, salt, and pepper, and then saute for 3-4 minutes or until the kale is tender. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl then set aside.
In the same skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon butter then sprinkle in 2 Tablespoons flour (I used brown rice flour, but use whatever you’ve got.)
Cook for 30 seconds then slowly pour in 1-1/2 cups milk while whisking constantly to avoid lumps. I used 2% milk – one of those 12oz single serving bottles which is the exact amount you need for this recipe – but again, use whatever you’ve got on hand!
Season with salt and pepper then turn the heat up slightly until the sauce is bubbling, then turn it back down to medium and cook until thick and bubbly, 5-6 minutes. Finally, remove the skillet from the heat then gradually add 1/2 cup each shredded fontina and smoked gouda cheese and stir until smooth.
Lke I said, this smoked gouda is a nod to the smoked cheese I had at Beecher’s. It really perfumes the whole dish with a fantastic smokey flavor!
At this point the brown rice should be done, so add it to the bowl with the kale and caramelized onions, then add the cheese sauce on top.
Stir the whole thing together then pour into a nonstick sprayed casserole dish, top with 1/4 cup more of each cheese, then bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees, or until brown and bubbly. Make sure you give that cheese a chance to get dark, golden brown. It really makes a flavor difference!
Let the gratin sit for at least 15 minutes to set up, then serve with a side salad, or as a decadent side dish with chicken or steak!
Beecher’s Kale and Brown Rice Gratin with Smoked Cheese Sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup brown rice
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 jumbo sweet onion, cut in half then into thin slices
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups packed chopped lacinto kale (about 1/2 a big bunch)
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons flour (I used brown rice flour)
1-1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese, divided
3/4 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese, divided
- Bring chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan then add rice. Cover then turn heat down to medium-low and cook until rice is tender, 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat then set aside with the lid on for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large, non-,stick skillet over medium heat then add onions and a dash of salt. Stir to coat then cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and very tender, 25-30 minutes. Add garlic and kale, season with salt and pepper, and then cook until kale is tender, 3-4 minutes. Scoop mixture into a large bowl then set aside.
- In the same skillet melt butter then sprinkle in flour and whisk to incorporate. Cook for 30 seconds then slowly pour in milk while whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Season with salt and pepper then turn heat up slightly to bring to a bubble and then turn heat back down to medium and cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring often, 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat then gradually stir in 1/2 cup of each cheese until melted and smooth.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees then spray a 9×12″ or 8×8″ baking dish very well with nonstick spray. Add cooked rice and cheese sauce to kale mixture in the bowl then mix to combine. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until dark golden brown on top. Let sit for 10-15 minutes (or longer!) before serving.
I cannot express to you how delicious this dish is. Perfectly cheesy, creamy, and swirled with hearty kale and caramelized onions. So, so incredible. Enjoy!