In this recipe, kale and wild rice join forces for a hearty vegetarian casserole. It puts a big helping of greens on your plate and embraces cold-weather cooking head-on with nutty rice, a hint of sage, and the warmth of nutmeg. A luxurious creamy sauce holds this casserole together and puts it squarely in the comfort food category.
Start with Cooked Rice
Because wild rice has such a lengthy cook time, this casserole benefits from starting with already-cooked rice. How you get there is entirely up to you. Pull out your pressure cooker to make the rice in minutes while you prep the other ingredients, or cook it on the stovetop a day or two in advance.
Cook the Wild Rice
Whichever method you choose, don't cook the rice until it's totally tender. Leave a little bite so it can continue to soften in the oven. I recommend taking it off the stovetop about five minutes sooner than normal, or about two minutes earlier for the pressure cooker.
Kale pro tip: 3 Ways to Remove Tough Stems from Leafy Greens
Wild Rice and Kale Casserole
2 large bunches flat-leaf or Lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 8 cups chopped)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray; set aside.
Blanch the kale in the boiling water until the leaves are just softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
Place the milk, vegetable broth, and sage leaves in a small saucepan and warm over low heat; keep warm.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the flour, and cook for 1 minute more.
Remove and discard the sage leaves from the warmed milk and broth, then gradually whisk the liquid into the skillet until smooth. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and continue cooking until the liquid is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the blanched kale, cooked wild rice, and 1 cup of the cheese. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish in an even layer, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Bake uncovered until heated through and the cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
- Make ahead: The wild rice can be cooked up to 2 days ahead (on the stovetop or in the pressure cooker) and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The kale can be blanched 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Leave both out at room temperature while the oven is heating before assembling.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.