When you want something different from the traditional bread stuffing on Thanksgiving, wild rice stuffing is a great alternative. Wild rice has an earthy appeal that is so well suited for fall and winter meals. It is generously filled with complementary fall flavors with grains, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and toasted nuts. To liven up these woodsy fall notes I added dried cranberries for a sweet and tangy zing and lots of fresh herbs. It is everything you expect in a stuffing recipe minus the bread.
I love wild rice and have always wanted to make wild rice stuffing, yet it has taken me all these years to finally do so. Tradition has a strong hold on what I make for our holiday meal. If it were only up to me, I would experiment and try new recipes every year. Yet, tradition overrules. Everyone has their favorite food that must be on the menu because Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without it. For my sons, that special holiday dish is pineapple stuffing, for me, it is all of the side dishes, but I particularly like my favorite stuffing recipe and pumpkin pie.
Wild Rice Stuffing
In the past, I sampled wild rice stuffing made with all wild rice and aromatics. As much as I like wild rice, I prefer it in a blend with long grain white or brown rice. The rice blend flavor is less overpowering and doesn’t compete with the other foods. Within this recipe layers of flavor builds from slowly caramelizing the onions then sautéing the mushrooms in the same pan. These flavors take time to develop, so be patient and cook the onions slowly until they turn golden and sweet. I promise it is worth it.
I adapted this recipe from an old Thanksgiving Menu article in Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms. My cookbook collection is filled with binders of old food magazine articles I read since the early 1990’s. At the time, any recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard to part with as I was dreaming of the day when it will be my turn to host a family holiday meal. I own binders full of recipes from old food magazines that still hold my interest 20 years later.
You have two choices for finishing the stuffing. One, stuff the turkey with the wild rice stuffing. Or, bake the stuffing in a baking dish. Both options have their advantages. If you stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, the stuffing absorbs the flavors of your turkey and gets very moist. The opposite happens, if you bake the stuffing. The stuffing stays moist, but the top gets crispy. The crunchy bits are Joe’s favorite part of the stuffing.
If you choose to stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, you must cook the stuffing until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) because it is cooked inside a raw turkey. Often, the turkey finishes cooking before the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. If that is the case, remove the stuffing and finish it in a baking dish covered with foil in a 350°F (176°C) oven, until it reaches the proper temperature.
Stuffing or Pilaf?
You can prepare this recipe with two options. First, prepare the wild rice stuffing as directed using the two-stage cooking process. However, if you want to make this for a regular dinner, as a side with a roast pork or chicken, serve the rice after it finishes cooking on the stove. The rice is plenty done plus it saves you 40 minutes if you skip the baking. For extra flavor toast the wild rice and white rice in butter and make this recipe as a pilaf.
Dietary Challenges Creating a Holiday Menu
When I make a holiday meal for my family, there are many types of diets I must take into consideration. Generally speaking, my meal needs to satisfy an omnivore diet, plus vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Sometimes dairy-free, low salt restrictions, and nut free restrictions need consideration. Satisfying everyone in the family requires some thoughtful planning.
Fortunately, wild rice stuffing is one of those side dishes that easily fits into all my dietary considerations. It is in the one size fits all category. First, it is gluten-free, so you can check consideration off your list. Second, cook the rice in vegetable stock and bake it in the oven for a plant-based meal. You get bonus points with your vegetarian and vegan friends because combining wild rice, white rice, and nuts create a meal with complementary proteins. Low or no salt store-bought stocks are good options, but homemade stock is even better for keeping salt intake down.
Fortunately, when I host a holiday meal, I do not have to make it all by myself. People enjoy contributing to a portion of the dinner. It makes them feel connected to the event and not burden the host with all the work and expense. Recruit as much help as you need and don’t be shy about it.
Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries
Wild rice stuffing is a great alternative to bread stuffing. It has all the flavors you love in stuffing from the caramelized onions, sautéed wild mushrooms, and toasted walnuts with an added boost from dried cranberries and fresh herbs. This is a great gluten-free stuffing alternative that all will enjoy.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms, I believe dating back to 2000.
You can prepare the wild rice stuffing a day or two in advance kept covered in the refrigerator then bake in the oven when needed. This recipe is easily scaled up or down as needed.
- 4-5 onions around 2- 2 ½ lbs (1 kg
- 1 cup (3 oz / 87 g) walnuts
- 8 TB (113 g) butter, divided one stick
- 1 ¼ lb (575 g) assorted wild mushrooms like crimini and shiitake stemmed and sliced
- 3 TB chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp Kosher salt divided
- 2 TB (30 ml) Brandy or Dry Sherry optional
- 5 cups (750 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tsp fresh sage minced
- 1 1/3 cup (226 g / 8 oz) wild rice
- 1 ¼ cup (245 g / 8.5 oz) long grain white rice
- 1 cup (123 g) dried cranberries
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary minced
- 6 -8 large sprigs of Italian Parsley
Peel and slice the onions in half lengthwise then thinly slice each half in half-moons. Set aside.
Heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat, to just before smoking hot. Toast the walnuts in the hot skillet. Keep the walnuts moving and jumping around the skillet so they do not brown and burn. The walnuts are toasted when you get a nutty aroma and the skillet seems shinier from the oils released from the walnuts, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat and tip the walnuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
Melt 4 TB (56 g) butter in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter stops sizzling, add the onions slices and turn down the heat to medium-low. Stir to coat the onions with butter and cook the onions until caramelized about 30 minutes or longer. It is important to caramelize the onions slowly otherwise they will burn. Stir the onions every now and then to make sure the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. The browner you let the onions get the more flavor they bring to the wild rice stuffing. Add in a pinch of Kosher salt.
Once the onions are caramelized, scrape them into a bowl and set aside. Place the pot or sauté pan back on the stove with the heat up to medium-high.
Melt the remaining 4 TB (56 g) butter then add the mushrooms, pinch of the Kosher salt, and 1 tsp minced thyme. Stir to coat the mushrooms with butter, then sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid and cooked all the way through. There are too many mushrooms in on pot for them to brown, but if you get some browning on the mushroom all the better as it adds flavor. Add the brandy or sherry (optional), and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions.
Meanwhile, while the onions and mushrooms are cooking, heat up the stock with 2 tsp minced sage and 1 TB thyme and remaining Kosher salt in a large Dutch Oven with at least a 5 qt capacity to a boil. Add the wild rice and bring back to a boil, then cover the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes.
Mix in the white rice and cover. Simmer until the white rice is just getting tender and most of the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes.
Stir in the caramelized onions, mushrooms, cranberries, walnuts with the remaining tablespoon of thyme, 1 tsp minced sage, and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
Finish by stuffing the turkey with the wild rice stuffing or bake the stuffing in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dish.
To bake stuffing in the turkey:
Chop 4 of the parsley sprigs and add to the wild rice stuffing. Stir to combine. Loosely fill the neck and main cavities of the turkey with the stuffing. Loosely sew the skin flap over the neck area to secure the rice in place. Truss the legs of the turkey together. Add the remaining stuffing to a buttered baking dish large enough to hold the leftovers. Cover with buttered foil and bake in the oven with the turkey, until heated through about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing then bake until the top of the stuffing is slightly crisp.
Bake the stuffing in the turkey until the turkey is done, and remove the stuffing while the turkey rests. Immediately check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing is done when it reaches 165°F (74°C). If the internal temperature is lower than 165°F (74°C) remove the stuffing from the cavities and place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Continue to bake the stuffing until the temperature reaches 165°F (74°C)
Remove the stuffing from the cavities and spoon into a serving bowl. Mince the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Keep warm until time to serve. Serve hot.
To bake stuffing in a baking dish:
Butter a 9 – 13- 2-inch baking dish. Add half of the minced parsley to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. Tip the rice stuffing into the baking dish then cover with a buttered piece of foil, butter side down. Bake in a 350°F (176°C) for 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove the foil and bake until it starts to crisp on top, another 20 minutes or so. You do not have to concern yourself with the internal temperature reaching 165°F (74°C) because it was not cooked inside a turkey. Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Serve hot.
I believe the wild rice stuffing is delicious and ready to serve just after cooking on the stove. If you do not want to go through the extra step of baking it, however, this extra step gives you a crispy top, feel free to do so. Wild rice with mushrooms and cranberries makes a great rice side dish. This is a hearty flavored rice meal and will work well with oven roasted or grilled meats, and fish like sea bass, tuna, salmon or swordfish.
You can substitute the long grain white rice with long grain brown rice. Cooking times will vary and take longer with brown rice.
Extra mushroom flavor
For extra wild mushroom flavor, add 1 tablespoon of porcini mushroom powder to the stock. You can also reconstitute some dried wild mushrooms like porcini or chanterelle mushrooms, then chop them up. Add them to the sautéed mushrooms.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
This is the only vegetable stock recipe you need to know. I usually do not make blanket statements like this, but when it comes to vegetable stock, this one is the only one worth using. The technique used to pull out as much flavor from the vegetables is so genius and obvious, I often wish I thought of it myself. What makes this stock so wonderful and puts all other vegetable stock recipes to shame? The brilliant idea of roasting the vegetables before you simmer them in water.
This is Mark Bittman’s recipe for vegetable stock from, How to Cook Everything. In his cookbook, Mark Bittman writes about his technique of roasting the vegetables before simmering them in the stockpot as the one step he always does when making vegetable stock. He has the talent for paring down a recipe to include only the essential techniques to get the most amount of flavor. Yet, for making vegetable stock, he adds an extra step and it is essential. Because Mark Bittman is often so nonchalant about things, that when he says, “This is the one thing to do when making vegetable stock,” I do not question his wisdom. I follow.
Building Extra Flavor
Once you roast the vegetables then simmer them for stock, you will see how important this step is. When vegetables roast in the oven, their flavor concentrates and browning occurs. This browning adds extra body and flavor on top of the flavor you get from roasting. If Emeril Lagasse was making this recipe he would shout out, “Bam,” and with a flick of his wrist, like its a magic wand, present this vegetable stock masterpiece.
Honestly, there are two extra steps because you must deglaze the pan after roasting the vegetables then add all that extra flavor into the stock.
Another bonus with deglazing the pan is, it helps with the cleanup later on. All the baked on goodness, (I know you are looking at the photo and thinking clean-up is going to be a bitch) dissolves into the warm water as you scrape it off the bottom of the pan. Voila, half the clean up is done before you finish the stock.
Vegetables for Vegetable Stock
“Vegetable for Vegetable Stock” sounds like a political campaign slogan. Though I am not on a political crusade, I am on a homemade vegetable stock crusade. The essential vegetables for making stock are celery, carrots, onions, and leeks. Use the onion skins because they add great color to the stock. Feel free to use the whole plant, roots and all. Carrot tops and celery leaves I add later to the simmering stock with the herbs, But everything else roasts together in one roasting pan.
Other vegetables depend on what you are making and have on hand. What is important to keep in mind is, whatever vegetable you use will influence the flavor of the stock. If you use broccoli stems, the stock will taste like broccoli. If you use asparagus ends, the stock will taste like asparagus and have a khaki green glow. Sometimes bitter vegetables get more bitter when roasted or cooked. So, keep in mind what you are making with the vegetable stock and add extra vegetables to complement the meal. If you are making vegetable stock for broccoli soup, then broccoli stems are perfect in the stock. If you are making mushroom risotto, then using broccoli is not the best choice, but reconstituted mushrooms and fresh mushrooms are along with the essential vegetables.
For my vegetable stock I generally use, celery, carrots, onions, leeks, garlic cloves, parsnip, turnip, and mushrooms with fresh herbs. Sometimes I add fennel stalks, but not too many.
Potatoes are common vegetables in stock, but I have yet to use them. Instead of potatoes, I like to use parsnips and turnips. What concerns me about using potatoes is I do not want the stock to get cloudy and I believe the starches in potatoes will cause that to happen. Also, I do not want my stock to taste like potatoes.
Cutting Back on Food Waste and Make Stock
To cut back on food waste, I keep a stash of vegetable scraps in my freezer specifically to use in chicken and vegetable stock. It is great to save on food items you frequently cook with, like mushrooms stems and the dark green parts of cleaned leeks instead of throwing them away. Fennel scraps get thrown in there as well. Recently I froze a bunch of swiss chard stalks from my Savory Tart of Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash and used them in my vegetable stock. Whatever vegetable scraps I do not use I compost even though I do not have a vegetable garden. Composting your kitchen scraps help reduce the carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
Read here for more information about Food Waste
For the first time, make the vegetable stock using the recommended vegetables and discover the vegetable flavor developed from the recipe. Once you get familiar with making stock, you can experiment with using different vegetables and come up with your own varieties.
Mark Bittman lists white wine as one of the ingredients in the stock. If I have a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio on hand I use it. If not, I don’t. The wine does make the flavors brighter but is not so important that you need to make a special trip to the liquor store.
Discovering this vegetable stock recipe was a life changer for me. Up until then, store-bought vegetable stock tasted meh and the flavor unreliable. Any homemade version tasted just a step up from water. I like using vegetable stock in meals like risotto and vegetable stews because chicken stock sometimes is too strong a flavor. Sure, you can use chicken stock in all these foods, especially if you are not cooking for a person eating a plant-based diet, but it makes everything taste like chicken soup. As much as I love chicken soup, I do not want everything to taste like it. Having a good vegetable stock recipe is a necessity.
Use vegetable stock in these recipes:
Roasted Vegetable Stock
You can use most vegetables for making stock, just keep in mind that the stock will taste like the vegetables you made it with. The essential vegetable stock ingredients are celery, onion, carrots, and leeks. Any additional vegetables are bonuses. I happen to love the flavor of parsnips and turnips in stocks and use them often. Parsnips have a distinct and sweet flavor, that I believe gives vegetable stock a unique flavor.
This recipe is from, How to Cook Everything By Mark Bittman.
Makes 3 quarts
- 2 washed leeks cut in half or 2 onions quartered with the peel intact.
- 3 carrots peeled and cut in half
- 3 celery stalks cut in half, add some celery leaves during the simmer
- 2 parsnips peeled and cut in half optional
- 2 white turnips peeled and quartered optional
- 2 potatoes peeled or well washed and quartered optional and use if you do not use parsnips or turnips
- 1 cup (250 ml) mushrooms or mushroom stems. Or ¼ cup (60 ml) reconstituted dried mushrooms with soaking liquid)
- 6 garlic cloves still in its papery skin or shallots
- 4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 3 bay leaves
- 10 sprigs parsley
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 peppercorns
- ¼ cup 60 ml dry white wine
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 quarts (2 liters) water, plus 4 cups (1 liter) of water for deglazing
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet or large roasting pan. Do not add reconstituted mushrooms or fresh herbs at this time. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Use two sheet or roasting pans if necessary. Drizzle the vegetables with the extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt. Toss the vegetables with your clean hands to evenly coat.
Roast the vegetables in the oven until they are browned and soft. Check the vegetables every twenty minutes and turn them around with a thin metal spatula. The vegetables should take around 45 minutes to finish roasting.
Remove the vegetables from the roasting pan and place all the ingredients in a large stockpot. Add the remaining vegetables, fresh herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns, wine, and 2 quarts of water. Turn on the heat to high.
Place the roasting pan over two burners and pour in the remaining water. Begin with 2 cups (500 ml) of water as it is easier to pour back into the stock pot from the roasting pan. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Use a wooden spoon and scrape off the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the liquid into the stockpot with the vegetables and add remaining water. It is awkward handling a large sheet pan or roasting pan filled with water, so be careful.
Bring the stock to a just about a boil, turn down the heat and cover the pot with a lid part way. Maintain the temperature at a low simmer. You should see a few bubbles reaching the surface at a time. Cook until the vegetables are very soft and tender. This can take from 30 -45 minutes. Taste.
Place a colander over a large bowl big enough to hold 3 quarts. Pour out the vegetables into the colander and drain the stock in the bowl. Press down on the vegetables to extract as much stock as possible without pressing in any solids into the stock. Taste and adjust for salt if needed.
Refrigerate and chill for a couple of hours then skim off any hardened fat floating on the surface if you like. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or freeze for a couple of months.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Macaroni and cheese must be one of the most popular foods around and it is easy to understand why. Mac and cheese is pure comfort food with the creamy and cheesy sauce coating tube-shaped pasta. I can’t decide which type of macaroni and cheese I like more, stove-top mac and cheese or baked, as both have their merits. For this blog post, I decided to go with baked mac and cheese because I love the layer of crispy breadcrumbs over this cheesy casserole. They add welcome textural contrast to the smooth and creamy macaroni. In my opinion, this classic baked mac and cheese is the ultimate mac and cheese because it is creamy and gooey in a good way, with lots of cheese and extra flavor from the herb-infused sauce.
What is Mac and Cheese?
What is the foundation ingredient in Mac and Cheese? Other than the macaroni, it is the Mornay sauce made with cheddar cheese. A Mornay sauce is a béchamel sauce, (white sauce made from a roux and milk ) with melted cheese. These two sauces are two of the five mother sauces from French cuisine and are the backbone to a lot of American food.
Traditionally, a Mornay sauce is made with Gruyère cheese, so for this recipe, I decided to stay with tradition and use Gruyère cheese. Because mac and cheese would not be mac and cheese without the sharp taste of good cheddar, I combined a blend of two kinds of cheese for a full-flavored cheese sauce. Most mac and cheese recipes call for using all cheddar cheese, but the texture of a sauce made with only cheddar cheese is gritty. There is nothing wrong with it as it is the nature of the cheese, but it is just not that pleasant to eat.
Extra Cheese Flavor
I discovered to make a smooth cheese sauce with cheddar cheese, using two types of cheeses is essential. Plus the proportion of cheddar must be less than the second cheese in the sauce. Making cheddar cheese the less prominent cheese diminishes the gritty texture and makes a velvety smooth sauce. I recommend two cheese combinations, one with 12 oz (350 g) of Gruyère and 8 oz (225 g) of extra sharp cheddar. Or, for a more economical meal substitute the Gruyère with 12 oz (350 g) of Colby jack cheese and 8 oz (225 g) of extra sharp cheddar cheese. Either combination produces a silky and cheese forward sauce perfect for mac and cheese.
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese and where I got the idea of combining Gruyère cheese with cheddar cheese. After my disappointing mac and cheese with 100% cheddar, I sought out more inspiration to fix the gritty texture and her recipe did just that. There is a lot of cheese in this recipe and it is very rich. Yet the combination of Gruyère with its’ aged and nutty flavor with sharp-tasting cheddar give this sauce extra body and flavor. The cheese flavor comes through and is not mild which is a common complaint about a lot of macaroni and cheese recipes.
If Gruyère cheese is too expensive you can use a combination of Gruyère and Swiss cheese or substitute the Gruyère with Colby jack. Colby jack is a milder tasting cheese and usually a favorite with younger children. These two options give you two mac and cheese recipes, one for adults and one for children. Although the recipe has so much cheese in the sauce I believe children will like both versions.
My Extra Step
What makes my recipe different from The Barefoot Contessa’s is I steep the milk with garlic and herbs before I make the Mornay sauce. This extra step really makes a difference in flavor. Fortunately, it does not add extra time because you can easily steep the milk while you wait for the pasta to cook. Unfortunately, it does give you one more pot to clean, but I promise you it is worth it. Dried bay leaves, fresh sage and garlic steep in warm milk and change the sauce from ok to distinctive. Steeping herbs is one of my favorite ways of adding extra flavor without changing the look of the sauce. The sage flavor in this sauce is not too herby or assertive and comfortably rounds out the cheese and cream flavors like putting on a brand new pair of socks. Its soft, comfortable and invigorating.
And Then Some
There are countless ways to change-up mac and cheese. Listed below are just a few examples.
- If you want to have cheesy strands in your creamy sauce add a 4 – 8 oz (125 – 225 g) of cheese cut into ½ inch cubes after you mix the sauce with the macaroni. Personally, I believe this recipe has more than enough cheese in it, but people love the extra cheese.
- If you use the Colby jack and cheddar cheese combination, add about a half cup (125 ml)of Romano or Parmesan Reggiano to the macaroni after you mix the cheese sauce and pasta. The Romano or Parmesan will add some extra flavor to this mild cheese sauce.
- Caramelize two onions then add to the mac and cheese before baking.
- Add blanched broccoli flowerettes or cauliflower to the mac and cheese before baking.
- Cook 6 slices of bacon, not thick bacon, until crispy. Chop up into half inch pieces. Add the crispy bacon to the mac and cheese before baking and proceed as directed. Fried prosciutto is also delicious. Tear pieces of prosciutto and cook them up in a skillet with extra-virgin olive oil until crispy.
- Add frozen peas to the stock pot with the pasta 2 minutes before you stop cooking the macaroni. Drain the peas with the macaroni and set aside to cool.
- For pure decadence, add 1 ½ lb (750 g) cooked lobster meat to the macaroni and cheese. (Ina Garten’s Lobster Mac and Cheese recipe).
- Use Ina Garten’s recommendation and add sliced tomatoes over the top of the casserole, then add the breadcrumbs before baking.
- Season the cheese sauce with nutmeg instead of hot sauce. Add ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg.
Serve Mac and Cheese with Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Classic Mac and Cheese and Then Some
A classic macaroni and cheese recipe with a smooth creamy-cheesy macaroni filling. I added an extra step of infusing the milk with fresh herbs and garlic to develop extra flavor in the sauce and complement the cheeses. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs seasoned with parmesan cheese, ground garlic and dried herds over the macaroni and cheese before baking in the oven. The breadcrumbs add a welcome crunch and textural contrast to the delicious and gooey macaroni.
Make macaroni and cheese with any tubular shape pasta like elbows, shells cavatappi or a small penne or ziti shapes are nice. But it is important to undercook the pasta before you add it to the sauce. The pasta will continue to cook while baking in the oven so undercooking it beforehand prevents the macaroni from getting soggy and limp.
Macaroni is a great make ahead casserole and you can make it two days in advance. Store in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. Make the casserole up to the point before putting on the breadcrumb topping. You can also freeze it for up to 2 months. Make sure you freeze it in a freezer-to-oven safe baking dish.
If refrigerated, take the casserole out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking to bring up to room temperature. Remove the plastic wrap then add the breadcrumbs. Bake covered in foil for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until hot and bubbly.
If frozen, remove the plastic wrap and cover the casserole with foil bake for one hour, then remove the foil and bake until hot and bubbly.
Best eaten hot on the day it is made.
Store leftover macaroni and cheese covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The sauce gets drier, but it heats up well in a microwave.
Macaroni and Cheese
- 4 cups (1 L) whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 lb. tubular shaped pasta like elbows shells, or cavatappi
- 6 TBS Butter
- 6 TBS all-purpose flour
- 12 oz grated Gruyère cheese or Colby Jack
- 8 oz grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
- 1-2 tsp Dried herbs like parsley oregano, or sage or Italian seasoning
- 1-2 tsp ground mustard
- 1-2 tsp hot sauce like Frank’s Red Hot
- Several rounds of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, or use 2-3 slices of whole grain bread
- 2 TB melted butter
- ¼ cup (60 ml) Parmesan Cheese
- ½ tsp granulated garlic
- 1-2 tsp of dried herbs like parsley, oregano, sage or basil
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190 °C / Gas Mark 5) with the rack in the middle position. Butter a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) baking dish.
Cook the pasta and Flavor the Milk
Heat a large stock pot filled with water until boiling. Season with salt and cook the pasta for half the amount of recommended time. Drain the pasta. Shake out any excess water from the colander then drizzle about 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over the pasta and toss to coat. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat up the milk and cream with the sage, bay leaves, and smashed garlic clove in a saucepan to just shy of boiling. Turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, making sure the milk does not boil. Turn off the heat then let the milk and herbs steep for 15-20 minutes.
Make the Topping
While you are waiting for the pasta to cook, make the topping. If making fresh breadcrumbs, take the bread slices and rip each slice into four pieces then place in a bowl of a food processor. Process the bread until it becomes crumbly but not gummy. Add the melted butter, parmesan cheese, and dried herbs if using, and process until combined. Pour the breadcrumbs into a small bowl and set aside.
If you are using panko breadcrumbs, pour the melted butter into a small bowl with the breadcrumbs and mix together. Add the parmesan cheese and dried herbs if using. Mix together and set aside.
Make the Sauce
Melt the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and stopped sizzling, add the flour and whisk to blend. Continue to whisk the butter and flour to make a roux for about 5 minutes. You want to remove the flour taste and smell. Be careful not to brown the roux.
Remove the herbs from the milk and add the milk into the roux a little at a time. Whisk the milk and roux continuously to thoroughly mix them together between each addition. Make sure you get into the crevasses of the pan to mix in all the milk and flour. Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. You know it is done when you dip a wooden spoon in the sauce then run your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce does not run and break the line, the sauce is done.
Once you have a thick sauce with a smooth texture, add the ground mustard, and hot sauce (if using), and a few rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Whisk them into the sauce and taste. Add the grated cheese in increments whisking the cheese and sauce thoroughly between each addition. Wait until the cheese has melted between each addition as well. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Assemble and Bake
Scrape the cooked macaroni into a bowl with the cheese sauce then stir to mix. If you are adding add-ins like crispy bacon or broccoli, add them now. Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish.
Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the macaroni in an even layer.
Place the macaroni filled baking dish on a rimmed sheet pan to collect any sauce that bubbles over while baking. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the topping is brown and crispy and the macaroni is bubbly. The internal temperature should register 165°F (74°C) Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
And then some:
If you want to have cheesy strands in your creamy mac and cheese, add up to a half pound ((225 g) of cheese cut into ½ inch cubes to the macaroni mixture and stir to combine.
Add a half cup (125 ml)of grated Parmesan Reggiano to the Macaroni and cheese sauce before scraping it into the baking dish.
Caramelize two onions, then add them to the mac and cheese before baking.
Add blanched broccoli or cauliflower flowerettes to the mac and cheese before baking.
Cook 6 slices of bacon, not thick bacon, until crispy. Chop up into half-inch pieces. Add the crispy bacon to the mac and cheese before baking and proceed as directed. Or try fried pieces of prosciutto.
Add frozen peas to the boiling pasta water 2 minutes before you stop cooking the macaroni. Drain the peas with the macaroni and set aside to cool.
Add 1½ lbs (750 g) cooked lobster meat to the macaroni and cheese. Season the cheese sauce with nutmeg instead of hot sauce. Add ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg.
Add sliced tomatoes over the top of the mac and cheese then sprinkle with breadcrumbs before baking. (Ina Garten's recipe)
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Throughout the spring, summer and now fall whenever I ate broccoli, I roasted it. This cooking technique is my favorite way to eat broccoli, especially when I roast whole garlic cloves alongside the roasting broccoli. I love roasted broccoli and adding the garlic cloves just made it that much better. Why waste a perfectly good sheet pan and a hot oven by roasting only one vegetable when you can roast two? Both vegetables complement each other between the roasted char flavor in the broccoli and the sweet caramelized garlic. As far as I am concerned one can never have enough roasted broccoli or roasted garlic because they go with any meal and are very good for you. You can eat roast broccoli and garlic hot out of the oven as a side dish or use as add-ins for other meals, like pasta or farro.
Roasted Broccoli with Garlic
The longer you roast the broccoli the crispier it gets from searing on the sheet pan. That char adds a nice contrast to the soft texture of the vegetables adding deep flavor to the sweet broccoli. You can eat the garlic cloves by chopping them up and sprinkling them over the broccoli or leave them whole and smear the caramelized garlic over the broccoli spears or bite of roast chicken. Roasted garlic is pretty tasty all by itself too.
This is one of those recipes where you don’t really need a recipe just an idea of what you want to accomplish. Use this recipe as a guide. The only thing you can mess up on is adding too much salt or seriously overcooking, (or undercooking) the broccoli. Yet, keep in mind to use enough extra virgin olive oil so the broccoli does not stick to your pan or dry out.
If you wish, substitute the broccoli with any type of cruciferous vegetable, like cauliflower, romanesco, or Brussels sprouts (sliced in half lengthwise), or a combination of any of these vegetables. This roasted broccoli recipe is quite versatile and easily adapts to roasting all types of vegetables like carrots or asparagus.
The store where I bought my broccoli, removed the stem. Hopefully, you can buy broccoli with the stem still attached. Do not throw out the stem, go ahead and roast it along with the broccoli spears. Just cut off the tough end, how much will depend on how the broccoli was processed, about an inch (2.5 cm). Then, I recommend removing the tough outer layer of the skin with a vegetable peeler. Once done, slice on the diagonal across the stem into quarter-inch (.5 cm) pieces. Make sure you leave enough of the stem intact, so you can slice the head of broccoli into broccoli spears, not flowerettes.
If you have more roasted garlic cloves than you need, don’t throw them away. Use the cloves to make Garlic Bread. The roasted garlic mellows the garlic’s harshness making the best garlic bread around.
Oven Roasted Broccoli with Garlic
This is my go-to recipe for roasting vegetables especially broccoli or cauliflower. I love roasting whole cloves of garlic still in its' papery skin so it gets good and soft and sweet. You can either roast a whole head of garlic as described in the instructions or scatter as many garlic cloves still in its' skin but with the root end cut off. Either way, you get sweet roasted garlic and crispy browned broccoli.
The broccoli may get done before the head of garlic is soft. The easiest way to adjust for that is, remove the sheet pan from the oven and return the head of garlic wrapped in foil back in the oven and roast for 5 - 10 more minutes, or until the garlic is soft and squishy.
I sprinkled homemade bread crumbs on my roasted broccoli for the photographs and you can easily make them as well. Either use a cup of Panko breadcrumbs or make your own bread crumbs from two slices of bread. Rip each slice of bread into four pieces and process the bread slices in a food processor until the bread gets crumbly and the size of Panko breadcrumbs or a little larger. Add a tablespoon of butter to a skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the processed breadcrumbs to the melted butter and stir to get evenly coated with butter. Add around 1 -2 teaspoons of dried herbs of your choice and a pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes or ground chili, then stir. Continue to stir the seasoned breadcrumbs until the breadcrumbs are brown and crunchy. Remove from the heat and pour them into a small bowl. Do not leave the breadcrumbs in the hot skillet because they will continue to cook and burn. Add a couple of tablespoons of Romano or Parmesan cheese and stir.
- 1 bunch (about 1 lb 6 oz / 700 g) broccoli one or two heads
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 head garlic or 8 -10 cloves still in its' papery skin root end sliced off
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)
Trim the broccoli by cutting off the touch end of the stem, then cut the broccoli head into spears.
Toss the broccoli on a sheet pan large enough to hold the broccoli in one even layer. Drizzle the olive oil over the broccoli and sprinkle the Kosher salt with a few rounds of black pepper. Toss the broccoli with your hands until all the spears are coated with the olive oil.
Drizzle extra olive oil over the cut side of the garlic and rub the olive oil all over the cut edge and sides. Place the garlic cut side down on the sheet pan. Take a small piece of foil, large enough to wrap around the head of garlic, and surround the head of garlic with aluminum foil creating a tight-fitting tent.
Alternative method: If you are using whole cloves, leave the papery skin intact, but slice off the root end. Sprinkle about 8 garlic cloves around the broccoli and toss to coat with olive oil.
Place the broccoli and garlic in the oven and roast for twenty minutes. Check the broccoli and turn the spears over with a spatula. Roast for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Remove the foil from the garlic. When the garlic is cool enough to handle but still hot, turn the garlic upside down. Hold the head by the root end in one hand and with the other hand, run your fingers down the sides of the garlic to push out the garlic cloves. Let the garlic cloves fall on top of the broccoli.
Alternative method: When cool enough to handle, remove the papery skin from each clove by pushing them out with your fingers. Scatter the garlic cloves around the broccoli on a serving platter or plate.
Arrange on a serving plate or serve the broccoli directly from the sheet pan. Serve immediately while hot.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I have wanted to make a savory tart since the first signs of spring and it is about time I finally got around to do it. I am not sure why it took me so long, maybe I was just waiting for Swiss chard to come into season. No matter the reason this is a rustic looking savory tart that fits more into the galette category. What I love about informal free-form tarts is you don’t have to worry about having the right size tart pan. It is so frustrating to read a recipe and get excited to make it only to realize you do not have the right pan.
Originally, I wanted to make Joshua McFadden’s Swiss Chard Galette from Six Seasons Cookbook. I have linked to this cookbook many times as it is one of my favorites and provides me with six seasons worth of inspiration. The walnut pie crust for this savory tart comes from his book. However, I decided to make my savory tart using a different style featuring layers of sautéed vegetables over a ricotta cheese and goat cheese spread.
Savory Tart Success
The key to success making savory tarts with lots of vegetables is you must precook all the vegetables. Skipping this step produces a pastry dough with a soggy bottom and partially cooked vegetables. I also believe you need to chop up the vegetables in such a way that they are large enough to not get lost in the pile, but small enough to not weigh down the tart and fall apart. Mixing greens with chopped vegetables help the vegetables stay put as well.
It is the butternut squash that makes the flavors of the savory tart stand out. The concentrated sweetness complements the bitter flavors from the Swiss chard and gives the vegetable filling body. Without it, it is just Swiss chard spread over pie crust, which would taste fine, but won’t be as impressive.
There are two things I love to mix in with butternut squash, sage and smoked or cured pork like pancetta or bacon. These two pairings, either separate or combined, make up one of the best flavor marriages around. If you don’t eat pork, omit it, but the fresh sage is still a nice addition. I did not add a lot of sage or pancetta, so feel free to play around with the amounts. If you do not like sage, substitute it with fresh thyme or rosemary to your liking.
Another optional ingredient is the ricotta and goat cheese spread. I like it because intermittently you will get a creamy pop of goat cheese with your swiss chard, but it is not necessary. Also, spreading the ricotta and goat cheese over the pie crust prevents it from getting soggy while cooking. If you do not want the cheese, baste an egg wash layer over the pastry dough before you add the vegetables. Like the cheese, the egg wash becomes a protective layer between the pie dough and the vegetables.
Savory Pie Crust
The walnut pie dough is the same recipe used in my Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning. If you do not eat nuts, please substitute it with the pie crust recipe for my Irresistible Onion Tart.
Savory Tart with Swiss Chard with Butternut Squash
I have a thing for savory tarts and this one has a lovely balance of flavors. This tart is more like a galette with its free-form shape and informal attitude. The sweetness of the butternut squash balances out any bitterness of the Swiss chard and gives this tart character. Additionally, I love the butternut squash with sage and pancetta and use them as my main seasonings in this galette. The pancetta is optional but any smoky cured pork is a delicious complement to the butternut squash. The layer of ricotta and goat cheese is subtle. It melts into the pastry and acts as a barrier preventing the pastry from getting a soggy bottom. To make this a dairy-free galette do not add the cheese. Instead, brush a layer of lightly beaten egg over the pastry before you add the vegetables.
Walnut Pastry recipe is from Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasonings. If you do not want a pie crust with nuts, use the recipe from the pie crust in my Irresistible Onion Tart.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 recipe for Walnut Pie Crust
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided plus more for the chickpeas
- 2.5 oz (65 g) pancetta chopped in ¼ inch (.5 cm) pieces (optional)
- 1 leek sliced into ¼ inch slices white and light green parts only
- 5-6 oz (150 g) butternut squash, about half of a small butternut squash
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 bunch (12 oz / 350 g) Swiss chard Cleaned
- A few rounds of freshly ground black pepper
- 4 sage leaves minced
- 3 oz (75 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2-3 oz (50-75 g) creamy goat cheese
- ½ cup (3 oz / 84 g) chickpeas, rinsed, dried and skins removed
- ¼ tsp paprika
- Small pinch of dried ground garlic
Walnut Pie Crust
- ½ cup (2 oz/ 58 g) 58 g toasted walnuts
- 1 2/3 cups (7.25 oz / 208 g) all-purpose flour
- 4 oz (113 g) chilled unsalted butter, one stick cut into pieces and kept cold until mixing
- 1 TB (12 g) sugar
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 2 TB (30 ml) ice cold water plus more if needed
Walnut pie crust
Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until a fine and even crumble. Be careful to not over-process the nuts into walnut butter. Pour the walnuts into a mixing bowl and add the flour, sugar and Kosher salt. Mix the ingredients together with a wire whisk until evenly combined. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with flour. Smush the butter with your fingers with the flour until you get a pebbly mixture of all different sizes. Add 2 TB of ice water and using your hands briefly toss to mix and form a ball. If the dough seems dry add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time.
Lightly dust your clean work surface with flour and tip the dough ball on the surface. Starting at the upper edge of your dough ball, use the heel of your hand to press down and smear the dough away from you. Continue to smear the dough away from you into a pile until you have worked your way through the ball of dough, about 4-5 smears. Gather the dough and form a round disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. The dough will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
Prep the vegetables
Meanwhile, peel and chop the butternut squash into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes.
Trim the stems off the swiss chard by slicing along both sides of the seam where the stem meets the leafy greens. Make a pile of the leaves and slice across the width in 2-inch strips. Repeat until all the leaves are sliced. Set aside.
Chop the stems into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces.
While you prep the vegetables, If using, brown the pancetta. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a hot pan then add the chopped pancetta. Turn down the heat to medium-low and brown the pancetta until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is brown and crispy. When done, remove the pancetta from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
Cook the vegetables
In a Dutch oven or large sauté pan (12 inches / 30.5 cm) add the remaining 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the sliced leeks, butternut squash, and a ½ tsp of Kosher salt to the pan then stir so the vegetables get an even coating of olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes then add about a ¼ cup (60 ml) of water to the pan, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Turn down the heat to medium and cook until the butternut squash just begins to get tender but not fully cooked, about 7 minutes.
Remove the lid and add the swiss chard, in batches. Cover the pan and cook until the swiss chard is wilted and soft about 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all liquid (if any) evaporates. Taste and add more Kosher salt if needed and a few rounds of fresh black pepper. Turn off the heat, add the minced sage and stir to mix. Tip the cooked vegetables onto a sheet pan to cool. Set aside.
Prepare the savory tart
Mix together the ricotta and goat cheese in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.
Mix together the chickpeas, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, paprika, and granulated garlic until evenly combined. Set aside.
One hour before you plan on baking the galette, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with the oven rack in the middle position. If you have a baking stone or steel, place it on top of the oven rack in the middle.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a large sheet pan, about 12 x 18 inches (30 x 45.5 cm). Set aside.
When you are ready to bake, take the tart dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Once rested, sprinkle your counter surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Whack the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin. Whack the dough moving from left to right to flatten it out. Turn the dough a quarter turn and whack 4 more times moving across the disk from left to right. Turn the dough over and repeat 2 more times. This process helps the dough start a nice circle shape. Roll out the dough with your rolling pin starting at the center and roll away from you. Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll across the dough beginning in the center. Repeat. Turn the dough over and roll out the dough until you have a 12-inch (30.5 cm) circle and the dough is about ¼-inch (.5 cm) thick. Dust the countertop with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Once you have completed rolling out your dough, place your rolling pin across the middle and lift your pie dough then drape it over the rolling pin towards you. Lift your pie dough draped rolling pin and place it across the center of your prepared sheet pan. Start at the end closest to you and roll the pin away from you while the pie dough eases into place. The edges should overlap up the sides of the rim.
Spread the ricotta and goat cheese over the pastry dough in a smooth and even layer, leaving a border of 1 ½-inches (3.5 cm). Tip the cooled vegetables on the pastry and spread in an even layer over the cheeses.
Top off with the seasoned chickpeas.
Fold over the pastry border up the sides of the vegetables. Pleat the pastry as you go around the circle to keep its shape. You do not need to make fancy pleats or edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes.
If the pastry dough is fragile and starts to break when you lift it up you have two options. 1) Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes ( or freeze it for 15) until the pastry dough chills and solidifies. 2) I found lifting the edge of the parchment paper at the area where I needed to lift the pastry dough over the vegetables, was an easy way to fold over the pastry dough. Then by moving around the circle, using the parchment paper to lift and guide the dough, until done. Peel away the parchment paper from the dough so that it rests back down on the sheet pan.
Mix the egg with a fork until the whites and yolk are combined. Baste the pastry border with the egg wash in an even layer. Add flakey sea salt, or toasted sesame seeds, or leave plain.
Place the galette in the oven and bake for 45 -55 minutes. The galette is done when the pastry has a deep golden brown color and is flaky.
Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Best eaten warm and the day it is made.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.