Wild Rice, Chicken, and Grape Salad

IMG_1710Cold wild rice? Ya sure, you betcha. We Minnesotans typically like our wild rice simmered in a soup, but this salad recipe will get you out of your comfort zone. I recently went searching through my previous blogs, sure that I’d posted this recipe long ago. It’s such a favorite with family and friends, that I thought I’d shared it already. Not so. I created this recipe several years ago based on a salad I’d had at a deli somewhere, probably Byerly’s. The combination of chewy wild rice and sweet grapes is perfect in the savory, creamy dressing, once the whole concoction has been chilled. Bring it for lunch, serve it for supper, or share it with others at a potluck picnic.

If you really want to punch up the flavor, make your own mayo, using the simple recipe for Whole30 mayonnaise below. You’ll need to make it at least 3 hours before you start on the rest of the salad, so it has sufficient time to chill. If you don’t, it’ll turn back into olive oil once the mayo hits the warm rice. And how did I gain that bit of culinary wisdom? Personal experience gained through wild rice salad lost. It wasn’t pretty, people.

Serves 6

2 cups wild rice, rinsed and drained
1 cube chicken bouillon
½-1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise (or make your own with recipe below)
1 tablespoon Penzy’s Northwoods seasoning OR 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, and a dash each salt, pepper, thyme, cracked or powdered rosemary, and garlic powder
1-2 cups green grapes, sliced
4 stalks celery, diced
4-5 scallions, sliced
6 chicken tenderloins, grilled and chopped into bit-sized cubes
½ cup pecan halves, toasted (optional)
4-6 leaves of Romaine lettuce (optional serving suggestion)

In small Dutch oven or large sauce pan, combine the wild rice, 8 cups water, and the bouillon cube. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, and cook for 45 minutes (or until some of the grains have popped), covered. Drain off any remaining water and put rice in colander. Rinse with cold water to shock, so that rice stops cooking. Let drain and cool for 15-30 minutes.

In large bowl, combine mayo and seasonings, stirring until incorporated. Add in cooled rice, grapes, celery, scallions, and cooked chicken. Toss to coat all ingredients with dressing. If using nuts, stir in right before serving. Optional: serve salad on bed of Romaine lettuce.

To make your own mayonnaise:
1¼ cups olive oil (not extra virgin), divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon

In food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup olive oil, egg, dried mustard, and salt. Blend until combined. Very, very slowly, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil with motor running, and process until oil is emulsified (thickened to mayo consistency). Add juice of lemon and pulse until combined. Refrigerate for up to one week, but no longer.

Wild Rice Soup

FullSizeRenderMinnesotans love their rich and creamy wild rice soup, something unique to the Midwest. So whenever we have out-of-state or overseas visitors, we send them home with a bag of wild rice…and this recipe for making a slightly healthier version of the old standby. I got a recipe similar to this years ago from Lund’s and Byerly’s. The high-end grocery store serves this soup in their deli, and they were handing out the secret recipe in response to frequent requests from patrons. But lately I’ve been adding in a chopped red pepper (which is chock full of vitamin C), and some celery and carrots. I also use only a portion of Half and Half, and then milk to finish it up. It’s still not a low-fat meal, mind you, just a little more substantive. (And I defy you to find another food blog that offers great vocab like “substantive” along with delicious food…)

1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minded dry onion
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet red pepper, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Half and Half
2 cups skim milk
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or 1 cup diced ham, optional

Combine wild rice, water, and bouillon cube in large sauce pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes, or until majority of kernels are split. Rinse under cold water to shock rice, and halt the cooking process. Set aside.

In large Dutch oven, melt butter. Add dry minced onion and cook until golden. Add chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add pepper, carrots, and celery and cook 5-10 minutes more. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat, and then cook a minute more. Gradually pour in chicken broth and stir until no lumps of flour remain. Stir in cooked rice, Half and Half, and 1 cup milk. Add in chicken or ham, if you’d like. Add additional cup of milk if needed to thin soup. Serve.

NOTE: Cream-based soups do not freeze well. Refrigerate your leftovers of this soup.

Wild Rice Casserole

IMG_0647If you live in the Great Lakes region, you love wild rice, and you’re darn proud of it. It’s that food item you buy for friends visiting from other parts of the world, showing just how unique and versatile we are in the midwest. Hey, we are so much more than hotdish and hamburgers! But what can you make with it besides the old standby, wild rice soup? Here’s a side dish I came up with that goes great with summer’s grilled meats and fish, or winter’s roasted beef, pork, or poultry. You can make it with dried cranberries to give it a sweet twist, or mushrooms to make it savory. Either combination compliments this hearty grain, and gives everyone a much-needed break from potatoes or white rice. (The wild rice casserole pictured here is served with my husband’s Brined and Smoked Turkey.)

Serves 6-8

1 cup uncooked wild rice
4 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon, or 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
(or use 1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries—aka: craisins—but not both mushrooms and craisins)
½ cup pecan halves
3 tablespoons butter, divided

Rinse wild rice in colander under cold water. Combine wild rice, water, and bouillon cube in large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 45 minutes, or until most of rice kernels are cracked open. Once rice is done, drain. Do a quick rinse of cold water to shock rice (halt cooking of grains). Drain again.

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. While rice is cooking, sauté onions in 1 tablespoon butter until translucent. Transfer cooked onions to 3 quart casserole dish. Add another tablespoon butter to pan and sauté mushrooms until cooked. Add to onions in dish. Add 1 tablespoon butter to pan, again, and toast pecan halves in butter about 3-5 minutes, or until they appear to darken slightly. Toss onions, mushrooms, and pecans with cooked wild rice in casserole dish. Cook, covered, in oven for 20-30 minutes or until heated through. Serve as side dish.

NOTE: If you prefer a tangier side dish, skip the mushrooms, and toast the pecans in 2 tablespoons butter. Then toss in 1/3 craisins with cooked rice. Cook in oven as directed above. Also, if you use salt instead of the chicken bouillon, this dish is vegetarian. It’s also gluten-free. Lose the butter, and it’s dairy-free and fat-free, but that’s going just a little too far.

Chicken, Rice, and Almond Casserole

IMG_0693Casseroles feel like cold-weather comfort food, but this savory chicken and rice dish is such a people-pleaser that you can make it any time of year. This is my go-to recipe when I’m bringing a meal to a friend who’s in need of a meal, whether due to the happiness of a new addition or the heartbreaking loss of a loved one. It’s mild enough for even the pickiest eaters, yet has enough flavor to keep everyone coming back for seconds. Make this ahead of time, then cover and keep in the frig for a day or two, and bake up when needed. (I wouldn’t recommend freezing it as the milk or cream in it will curdle. It doesn’t affect the taste, just the appearance.) So how do you make this easy recipe even easier? By purchasing a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store instead of baking, boiling, or grilling your own chicken.

I got this recipe from a friend about 20 years ago, and can barely read my handwriting on the recipe card—that’s how much it’s been used! My guess is that it was published by the makers of Uncle Ben’s rice, as that’s the key ingredient, but I’ve got no proof of that. The recipe calls for half and half, which you can certainly use if you have it on hand. However, it’s great made with milk in place of the cream, especially if you’re watching fat in your food. (My farm-boy father would tell you to make it with cream. End of discussion.)

Serves 6

1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice Original Recipe
1/4 butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4–1/2 teaspoon course ground black pepper
1 cup half and half or milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Prepare Uncle Ben’s rice according to package directions. While rice is cooking, melt butter in large sauce pan. Add chopped onion and cook on low until onions are translucent. Remove from heat and gradually sprinkle in flour, stirring until all the flour is combined. Add salt and pepper, stir again. Put pan back on low heat and gradually stir in cream or milk until flour mixture is smooth and creamy. Add chicken broth, and stir to combine. Turn heat to medium-high. Heat and stir until mixture is smooth and bubbly. In large bowl, combine milk mixture, cooked chicken, cooked rice, and almonds. Pour into 2 quart casserole dish and bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

NOTE: If using gluten-free chicken broth, this is a gluten-free recipe.