Friday, November 18, 2011

Mushroom and Leek Wild Rice

Thanksgiving in my parents' house always goes about the same way.  Mom wakes up super early and makes coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls with nuts and raisins.  I'm the next to get up, and then we'll sit down together and start going through the stack of old, splattered, hand-written recipes that make up our family's traditional dinner.  Bajee's stuffing, supremely moist and studded with fruit and pecans, Grandmom's traditional cornbread stuffing, candied yams, cranberry sauce and orange-cranberry relish, fluffy pale green jello salad, crescent rolls, the obligatory green vegetable, and 3 kinds of pie: pumpkin, cherry, and pecan.  Nothing changes, and I wouldn't want it to.  This is the one day a year when I believe that nothing can be improved about the meal.

We cook all day, stopping briefly to eat the cinnamon rolls when they're ready and catch a glimpse of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I always feel slightly bewildered when I see recipes for things like appetizers and starters for Thanksgiving.  It boggles my mind that people would put time and effort into fussy, complicated appetizers for people to eat before the biggest meal of the year.  There are so many problems with that!  First, who has time to make them?  Second, if people are munching on appetizers and snacks all day, how will they have room for dinner? 

Even though I think appetizers and new side dishes have no business near a Thanksgiving dinner, I am not immune to the pull of these things in other contexts.  So I'll make sausage, fig, and cranberry stuffing, or twice-baked sweet potatoes with chipotle-pecan streusel, or sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting (!) some other time.  And I'll also eat mushroom and leek wild rice, stuffed into roasted winter squash, all week for lunch.

Mushroom and Leek Wild Rice

This would be a great vegan entree for Thanksgiving, if you tend that way.

1 cup wild rice, rinsed well
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 large portobello mushroom caps
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch leeks, cleaned well, and sliced
1/4 teaspoon celery seed (or 1 rib fresh celery, chopped, if you have some on hand)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup dry sherry
salt and pepper to taste

Place dried mushrooms in a medium bowl, and pour 3 cups boiling water over them.  Allow to steep for 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft, and the liquid is caramel colored and very fragrant.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and set aside.  Pour the mushroom broth into a medium saucepan with the wild rice, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.  This can take anywhere from 45-60 minutes, depending on the brand of rice you use, so keep your eye on it. 

While the rice is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Gently scrape the gills from the portobello mushrooms using a spoon, taking care not to scoop out the mushroom flesh.  Slice into 1/2-inch-thick strips.  Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 10 minutes, until mushrooms are tender. Set aside.

Place olive oil in a wide shallow saucepan or skillet over medium heat.  Add leeks and saute 2-3 minutes, until soft.  Chop porcini and portobello mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan.  Add seasonings and stir to combine.  Add sherry, and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits.  Stir in wild rice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Note: This dish tastes great as is, but if you're not vegan, stir in a couple of tablespoons of butter after removing the finished dish from the heat.  The butter adds a silkiness and finesse that makes it taste even more like a special occasion.

"Your life is an occasion.  Rise to it." -Mr. Magorium

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