Growing up in Texas, we learned about fall, winter, and spring from textbooks and encyclopedias. A feed full of changing leaves on Instagram wasn’t a thing then, and connecting to the internet was about like dialing the man on the moon. I always thought the spelling of seasons was a mistake. It’s season. My pen pals from other countries thought we traveled by horse. Come to find out, we lived in the same country and it wasn’t called Texas. I now joke that Texans have a hard time believing in climate change because the climate never changes. I’m kidding. Kinda.
This post is sponsored by Kalettes, the new kid on the block. Imagine brussels sprouts with tiny kale leaves and you have kalettes. Technically speaking, they’re a hybrid of the two, not a genetic modification. They’re so cute you could eat them. And you should. Earthy, nutty, sweet. Kalettes!
I’ve just broken the cardinal rule plastered to every bumper—don’t mess with Texas. But with family scattered all over the state and frequent visits, I feel like I’m jesting with an old friend. They poke fun of our subarctic Minnesnota winters spent inside; I poke fun of their Saharan summers also spent inside. But when the calendar reads fall, Minnesota knows what to do.
The sun hangs lower. The temperatures demand jeans and sweatshirts. And the thick stripe of trees hugging the Mississippi change from a cool to a warm palette. The first drifts of burning firewood will hit the air soon. Growing up we’d just blast the A/C, switch on the fire, and light the autumn candle. Same difference. Kinda.
We christened fall this year with a hearty side, one we often make in the colder months—a creamy rice (sometimes quinoa) pilaf laced with barely sautéed earthy autumn vegetables. It’s seasoned with thyme and fresh cracks of pepper, held together with a light savory cream sauce, and topped with dried tart cherries. Aside from the drifts of burning firewood, it’s the first scent of fall to hit our house. The smell is as warm as the trees are turning. Years prior, brussels sprouts have been our earthy autumn vegetable of choice. But this time we used the new kid on the block—kalettes, a kale/brussels sprouts hybrid. Earthy, nutty, and sweet with a hearty crunch.
So whether you have to turn up the A/C or just crank open your windows to feel autumn’s chill, lure her in with this Creamy Kalette Baked Pilaf. Pick up a rotisserie chicken on the way home and roast a couple carrots in the time it takes to bake this side. As they say in the south, “Happy fall, y’all!”
PS—Texas friends, I expect a good roast come February, the seemingly longest month up north. And I don’t mean the kind that comes from your crockpot.
Make Rice. Into a small sauce pan, add rice, water, broth, and pat of butter. Add a liberal pinch of coarse kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and turn to medium. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until water is no longer visible. Remove from heat. Keep covered and set aside for another 10 minutes. Rice will continue to steam in pot. If using a different type of rice, follow package instructions. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set out a 8 x 10″ baking dish (or similar size).
Meanwhile prepare kalettes. Chop off woody ends. Heat a large skillet. Once hot, add a couple glugs of olive oil followed by the kalettes. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and remove from pan into baking dish. Set aside.
Make sauce. Finely chop onion. Heat butter in same large skillet. Once hot and melted, add onions. Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes until translucent. Sprinkle flour over onions and stir to coat. Once absorbed, pour in broth and heavy cream. Stir well to incorporate. Add in thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until sauce thickens. Finish sauce off with a couple grates of nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Remove from heat.
Into the baking dish, stir together kalettes, rice, and sauce until evenly incorporated. Sprinkle top with panko. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through.
Garnish with dried cherries. Serve warm.
• Rice can be made ahead of time. If previously refrigerated, bake for an additional 5 minutes or until heated through.
• Quinoa is a great stand in for rice in this recipe. You’ll need about 3 cups cooked for an equal substitution.
• If you can’t find Kalettes, use thinly sliced brussels sprouts or kale.
• If short on time, skip the bake and bread crumbs. Stir rice and sautéed veggies into the cream sauce and heat until warmed through.