Today after work I picked up both kids, made a library trip, took Aidan for a hair cut and cruised on home with one goal: quickly take pictures of the gratin I made last night before the sun sets. The sunset was at 5:34 pm this evening. I find that a little offensive. On a positive note, it was gorgeous and warm (70!) today, I got a picture and now I can give you this recipe. While I think we can all agree casserole isn’t the most photogenic dish there ever was, this one is DELICIOUS. It’s my favorite combination of a meal that feels both healthy and decadent, roasted cauliflower never fails and it’s plenty to feed a large family or keep a smaller family hooked up with lunches during the week. I strongly urge you to add this to your Thanksgiving menu. Not only will you feel like a total superstar in the kitchen, your family members will be begging for this to be on repeat for years to come.
I must confess this recipe would not fit in to the Even My Sisters Can Make It category. It requires roasting vegetables, caramelizing onions and kale and cooking rice. You’ll have multiple pots going, meaning it requires both time and a bit of clean up effort. It is SO worth it! As long as you go into it with the right expectations, when you’re not pressed for time, you’ll be delighted you did. It’s important to remember you can prep everything for this casserole ahead of time, giving you even more reason to serve this at the Thanksgiving table. With all the ingredients prepared, you can toss them together and have your casserole baking while you finish other holiday duties.
I hope I’ve done my job in convincing you. The idea for this hearty casserole came from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Deb has a Caramelized Onion, Kale and Wild Rice Gratin recipe in her amazing debut. In this version, I’ve added roasted veggies, along with spices and a herb, plus modified the levels of other ingredients and added the flavor of an additional cheese. After several rounds of recipe testing, this version is exactly what I was looking for.
November isn’t typically my favorite, but today’s sunshine and this recipe make me feel like perhaps this year will be different.
Roasted Cauliflower + Butternut Squash Wild Rice Gratin
2 cups dry wild rice
4 cups water
1 small/medium butternut squash, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch squares (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 3 cups)
2 – 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
two pinches cayenne pepper
sea salt and pepper
Caramelizing Saute Pan
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups stemmed, ribboned kale leaves
4 tsp butter (divided – 2 tsp to grease dish; 2 tsp melted to toss with breadcrumbs)
2 cups freshly grated baby swiss cheese (divided – 1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F for roasting the vegetables.
Start with cooking your rice – add 2 cups of wild rice and 4 cups of water together in a large sauce pan. Cook according to package directions, simmering and removing from heat when all the water is absorbed. The rice should not have any “crunch” left to it at this point – you’ll want to add a little more water and keep cooking if it does.
In a large saute pan over medium-low heat, melt butter and olive oil together. Add your half-moon onions with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender and getting a little golden, about 30 minutes. Add kale ribbons and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, until wilted. Remove from heat.
While your rice is cooking and your onions are caramelizing, chop up the cauliflower and butternut squash and toss in a bowl. Add 2 tsp of olive oil, the ground cumin, cayenne and a little sea salt and pepper. Toss well, so that all veggies have a light coating. If it feels too dry, add another tsp of oil. Spread the vegetables out on rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the vegetables around. Roast for another 5 – 10 minutes, pulling them out when they are firm-tender and starting to get a little golden.
Let your roasted vegetables cool while the rice finishes up. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
If you haven’t already, shred your cheese – baby swiss and parmesan. When everything is prepared, mix the wild rice, caramelized onions and kale, roasted cauliflower and butternut squash and 1 1/2 cups of baby swiss cheese together in a large bowl.
Grease your 9×13 baking dish with 2 tsp of butter. Melt the other 2 tsp of butter , then add to your 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper, and stir in the thyme.
Pour the wild rice and vegetable mixture into the baking dish, using the back of a metal spatula to make everything flat and even. Pour your cup of broth over the 9×13 dish evenly. Some will sink in, and some will stay on top.
Sprinkle your remaining 1/2 cup of baby swiss + 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan evenly over the rice mixture. (If you add a little more cheese, I certainly won’t judge you.) Sprinkle the breadcrumb-thyme mixture evenly over the top, noting there will be multiple spots where you can see the cheese poking through.
In your oven (which is now 375 F), bake the gratin for about 35 minutes, until cheese is starting to be slightly bubbling, and the breadcrumbs are turning golden.
Once you pull this casserole from the oven, let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. You could definitely wrap the top in tinfoil and keep it warm for a little while if you’re finishing up Thanksgiving details.
Remember – you can definitely roast the cauliflower and butternut squash, cook the wild rice, caramelize the onions and kale and shred the cheese the night before. Just make sure vegetables and rice are cool before covering and storing in the fridge. Enjoy!