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.
A silky and chunky mushroom sauce recipe perfect with fresh or dried, long wide shape pasta. With a pound and a half of mushrooms, it has a deep mushroom flavor seasoned with dry Spanish sherry and fresh rosemary.
My stress level is very high now and I desperately need to chill out. In-between two nor’easters, extended power outages, and no internet, I migrated my website from one hosting service to another. Maybe I should have waited until the storms cleared, but then I would still be waiting. No internet.
For over a week my website fluctuated between it’s old home and new one, appearing with different styling and connections. Just like we went from house to house seeking warmth and shelter after the storm. Fortunately, we had a place to go, not like my website that was floating between two homes.
Mushroom Sauce to Sooth the Soul
Amid cleaning out my refrigerator and freezer and restocking our supplies, I spied a pint of store made fresh cream of mushroom soup. I grabbed it up like it was the last pint of soup in the store. Instinctively, I knew other than my internet service returning, cream of mushroom soup was the medicine I needed to calm my mind.
Back home, with each sweet and earthy slurp my body melted into the serene soup. Selfishly, I wanted more and next to mushroom soup, pasta with mushroom sauce grounds me. Like cream of mushroom soup, mushroom sauces for pasta is at the top of my favorite food list. When two of the most comforting foods combine, it is difficult to hold onto any worries. It is time to make this at home.
How to store mushrooms Once I open a sealed package of fresh mushrooms, I put any remainder mushrooms in paper bag. Mushrooms get slimy in plastic bags and containers.
Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce
Wide flat noodles are my preferred pasta shape with this smooth mushroom sauce. Often pappardelle or tagliatelle are hard to find so penne is a good substitute. If you can get fresh pasta go for it, but make sure you time the pasta to reach just shy of al dente when the sauce is done cooking. Fresh pasta is best eaten right after it is cooked.
This recipe is adapted from Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, Tagliatelle with Mushroom Sauce.
- .5 oz (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms*
- 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
- 1 lb. (454 g) dried or fresh pappardelle pasta or tagliatelle, or penne
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 lbs 750 g assorted mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1 leek cleaned and minced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 TB fresh rosemary minced (thyme or sage)
- 3 TB tomato paste
- 2 TB dry sherry or Cognac
- 1 - 1.5 cups (250 - 375 ml) reserved mushroom liquid, or a combination of vegetable or chicken stock and mushroom liquid
- 2 TB butter
- Handful of Italian parsley chopped for garnish
- Fresh finely grated Romano cheese
Reconstitute the dried mushrooms
Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms and poke at them to submerge the mushrooms under the water. Quickly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid my lifting them out with your hands or a slotted spoon and rest them on a cutting board. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, lined with a double layer of cheese cloth, into a small bowl. Finely chop the reconstituted mushrooms and set aside. Reserve the mushroom liquid for later.
Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to boil. Once the pasta water reaches a vigorous boiling point and add about 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
Prepare the mushroom sauce
While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large skillet, about 12 inches (30cm) or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil add all the fresh mushrooms to the pan. (If you use a smaller pan, you may want to sauté the mushrooms in a couple of batches.) Sauté stirring occasionally until they are cooked through and all their liquid has evaporated.
Add the minced leeks, garlic, minced reconstituted porcini mushrooms, half the minced rosemary, Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper then stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until the leeks are soft about 5 minutes. Push aside the vegetables to uncover the hot spot of your pan and add the tomato paste to toast it over the hot spot for about a minute. Mix the tomato paste with the vegetables and cook for 4 minutes. Add the liquid, either just the mushroom stock or a combination of mushroom and chicken stock no more than 1. 5 cups (375 ml), and the butter. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer the mushroom sauce until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Refer to the directions on the back of the pasta box. Occasionally stir the pasta so the strands do not stick together. Once cooked, remove the pasta from the water using tongs and add it directly into the pan with the mushroom sauce. Toss to evenly coat the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining minced rosemary and serve.
Serve immediately garnished with minced parsley with finely grated fresh Romano cheese.
Dried porcini powder is another way to get earthy mushroom flavor when cooking with cultivated mushrooms. Start with 1 teaspoon. Taste, then adjust with more if needed.
More mushroom recipes for the mushroom lover:
Mix up the Mushroom Sauce
Instead of a pasta sauce, spread the mushroom sauce over polenta, grilled steaks, chicken or white fish.
Top bruschetta with the mushroom sauce. Toast slices of crusty French or Italian bread then paint each slice using a garlic clove. Top the garlic toasts with the mushroom sauce and serve as an appetizer.
Add some cream or crème fraîche to the mushroom sauce for a creamy adaptation. Start with a half of cup (125 ml) and taste. If you use cream add it with the stock, but do not let the sauce boil. If you use crème fraîche, add it at the end before you add the pasta.
Switch up the herbs to reflect the season. Mushrooms taste delicious with thyme, rosemary and sage, but in the summer months, try it with basil.
Experiment with the texture. For a slightly smoother sauce, purée half of the sauce until smooth, then add the purée back with the other mushrooms. Adjust the thickness with more stock.
For a heartier mushroom sauce, add roughly chopped tomatoes to the sauce before you add the stock. Proceed as directed.
If it wasn’t for free Wi-Fi at various stores in my area I would not have been able to get my website up and running and publish this post. Thanks to Panera and Starbucks for providing the service. It was a real-life saver for many people like myself during the aftermath of two nor’easters within a weeks’ time. This is not an ad or a sponsored post, just a friendly thank you.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
One ancient grain that is making a new impression in today’s modern diet is farro. I discovered it a few years ago by accident when I bought it instead of fregola. My lapse in memory steered me off course because farro is a wheat and fregola is a pasta made with semolina flour. These items don’t belong in the same aisle at the grocery store. Fortunately, this mistake was well worth making and I have cooked farro ever since.
Farro is a whole grain with an ancient pedigree. This grain was a staple wheat that fed ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. According to The Spruce, farro might be the mother wheat from which all wheat comes from. Honestly, I am more confused now than before I stared researching farro. Apparently, some confusion exists about the name or I should say, names. I don’t know if it is made by combining three wheat varieties – einkorn, emmer and spelt. Or, identified as either of the three wheat varieties. Or, all of the above. After reading the two previously linked articles and this one from NPR, I think it is all of the above.
Ultimately, what is important to know is the variety of farro. The variety determines how you must prepare your farro and how long to cook it. The three varieties are, whole, semi-pearled, and pearled. Whole grain farro has the whole grain intact and needs overnight soaking before cooking. The semi-pearled and pearled varieties have the bran partially or completely removed. Without the bran, farro cooks faster and does not need soaking. My grocery store only carries pearled farro, so I do not have experience cooking with the other varieties. Because of the different varieties, I recommend reading the label and directions carefully. This way you know what type of farro you have and how long to cook it.
Despite the varieties and confusion, farro is a delicious grain and worth making. I like its nutty flavor and chewy texture. The complexity of flavor adds more depth and is a nice substitute for rice or potatoes. Usually, I make it for a side dish with roasted meats. This way, while the meat roasts, it is easy to focus my attention on making the farro.
Pair farro with Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs
Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken (without the roasted veggies)
Cooking with Farro
For this recipe, I craved something with the creaminess of a risotto, but not as rich and requiring less effort. Mushrooms add smooth and silky texture to grains and are in season now. They make the grains taste creamy without adding dairy. There is a pound of mushrooms sautéed with two types of onions in this meal for a super luxurious feel and earthy flavor. I combined cremini mushrooms and button mushrooms, yet any mushroom combination will work.
Additionally, I added some dried porcini mushroom powder for extra depth. This is optional but is an economical and effective way to add wild mushroom flavor. If only white button mushrooms are available, I recommend adding the dried mushroom powder to boost the mushroom flavor. To make it, grind dried mushrooms in a spice grinder until it turns into a fine powder. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid in your pantry. Just a small amount of the dried mushroom powder adds a lot of body to any meal.
Whenever I cook with grains, I like to make them easily adaptable to a vegetarian or vegan main dish. By itself, farro with mushrooms and rosemary is not a complete protein source. With the added cashews, this is a nutritionally dense side dish. Add cannellini beans or lentils, and this transforms into a protein-packed plant-based meal. Grains and legumes are complementary proteins, so when combined in one meal all the amino acids are available. Because semi-pearled or pearled farro has some or all the bran removed, these types of grains do not make a complete protein when combined with legumes. Yet, it is a great vegan option.
How to Cook Farro
Instead of following the directions on the back label of my farro, I followed the recommendation from Joshua McFadden in his Six Seasons Cookbook. First, I toasted the farro in a large skillet with smashed garlic and red pepper flakes. Once toasted, I added water and a bay leaf, covered the pan and let it simmer until done. I like making rice like this too. Toasting grains in a skillet brings out the nuttiness in the grain and the fragrance is delightful. It cooks faster too. Unfortunately, toasting farro and sautéing the mushrooms requires the use of two large skillets. If you only have one skillet, use a 4 or 5-quart Dutch Oven for the mushrooms, and a 10-inch skillet for the farro. Sautéing vegetables and toasting grains requires a wide surface area to prevent the food from steaming.
With the sautéed mushrooms and onions an ancient grain comes to life with rich flavors. I got the desired creaminess of risotto without all the stirring and extra cheese. Like chatting with a dear friend, farro with mushrooms and rosemary provide sustenance and comfort after a day’s work.
Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary
For the Farro
- 1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 1 cup 188 g pearled farro
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups 1 liter water
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
For the Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary
- 2 TB Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small sweet onion minced
- 1 medium shallot minced
- 2 stalks celery minced reserve leaves for later
- 8 oz (225 g) baby bella mushrooms a mix of sliced and rough chopped
- 8 oz (225 g) button mushrooms a mix of sliced and rough chopped
- 1 tsp dried porcini mushroom powder* optional
- 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 TB butter
- 1 TB sherry vinegar
- 2 oz (62 g) 62 g lightly salted cashews, rough chopped
- More rosemary and celery leaves for garnish
Make the Farro
Place a large skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium. Add the olive oil. Just when the olive oil begins to shimmer, add the crushed garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat and gently sauté until the garlic begins to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add the farro and bay leaf and stir to coat. Constantly stir the grains while toasting so they do not burn. Toast the farro until it begins to brown and become fragrant. Add the water and Kosher salt then bring to boil. Cover the skillet and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook the farro until tender but still has a bite. It should not be mushy or the grain split open. Start tasting the farro at 15 minutes for doneness and continue as needed. When the farro is just cooked, drain the water and remove the bay leaf.
Putting it all together
Meanwhile, heat up a large skillet and add 2 TB olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the celery onions and shallots. Stir to combine. Remove the rosemary leaves off its stem and add the stem to the onions and celery. Reserve the rosemary leaves for later. Sauté on medium heat until the vegetables get tender and the onions translucent. Add a small pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 tsp and stir.
Add all the mushrooms and stir to get them nicely coated with oil. Continue to cook and occasionally stir until all the juices from the mushrooms evaporate.
Scoop out a tablespoon of the farro cooking liquid and add it plus 1 teaspoon of the dried mushroom powder to the mushrooms. Stir until mixed in. Taste and correct the seasoning for salt. Remove the rosemary stems and stir in the butter.
When the farro is cooked al dente and drained from the water, add it to the skillet with the mushrooms. Stir. Add the minced rosemary and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add a few grinds of the fresh pepper and one tablespoon of sherry vinegar, turn off the heat and stir.
Garnish with chopped cashews, chopped celery leaves, and chopped rosemary. This dish can be made ahead and reheated later. Add the cashews and herb garnishes just before serving.
Serve hot as a side dish.
To make the dried mushroom powder. Add a small handful of dried mushrooms to a clean spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Continue until you used up all your dried mushrooms. Put the mushroom powder in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in your pantry for 3 months. This mushroom powder recipe is from My Master Recipes by Patricia Wells.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.