The call of the wild

Flavorful wild rice is perfect for the holiday table ― or weeknight meals
MOLLY WATSON

Growing up in Minnesota, I ate a lot of wild rice: as the backbone of nutty autumn side dishes; stuffed in poultry during the holidays; in rich soups and casseroles in the winter; or tossed with peas in spring or summer. My grandmother even added it to pancake batter. Now that I live in California, where wild rice is cultivated in abundance, I use it almost as often.

Wild rice ― actually an aquatic grass ― was once harvested by canoe in Minnesota, and it was correspondingly pricey. With cultivation on the rise, however, it is now moderately priced and widely available. Our recipes and easy cooking ideas allow the full, earthy flavor of pure wild rice to shine through. Equally at home in a Thanksgiving feast or a weeknight dinner, and wonderful in both a tangy salad with cranberries and a homey Chinese-style congee, wild rice is as versatile as it is delicious. 

Using wild rice

Cook it simply. Rinse and drain 1 cup wild rice; place in a 4-quart pan with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 quart water. Bring to a boil over high heat; lower heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender to bite, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain. Makes 2½ cups.

Enhance it with easy flavorings. After cooking and draining, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons butter and chopped parsley to taste. If desired, add ¼ cup sliced toasted almonds or chopped toasted pecans, or ½ cup cooked peas.

Make a hearty pilaf. Sauté chopped onion, sliced mushrooms, and sausage; combine with cooked wild rice, a little chicken broth, and white wine. Cover and bake until liquid is absorbed.

Add it to baked goods. Substitute plain cooked wild rice for up to a third of the white rice in rice pudding; add ½ cup wild rice to a favorite pancake, muffin, or scone recipe.

Pop it for a great snack. In a 4- to 5-quart pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 inch vegetable oil to 375°. Add ¼ cup uncooked wild rice. Rice should pop at once; working quickly, use a slotted spoon to transfer rice to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 1 ¼ cups.

Recipes:

Wild Rice Congee

Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad