Wild About Rice

People who’ve never eaten wild rice don’t know what they’re missing.

Wild rice is the only cereal grain native to North America. It’s been harvested by Native Americans for more than a thousand years, and according to historians, the seed from this plant has been harvested from natural stands and used for food for more than 10,000 years.

Wild rice is special for several reasons. Besides being so tasty, it’s easy to prepare (cook 1 cup of rice in 3 to 4 cups of boiling water for 30 to 45 minutes depending on your tastes), inexpensive ($5 per pound or 23 cents a serving), can be kept for a long time (up to 10 years in an air-tight container) and can be frozen for later use (will keep for up to six months in freezer in an air-tight container).

And to top it off, wild rice is really nutritious. It’s a high-fiber complex carbohydate, high in quality protein and low in fat, with only 130 calories per ½-cup serving.

I’m lucky enough to have a nice supply of wild rice all the time. My mother goes to the White Earth Indian Reservation several times a year (she likes to go to the casino to play the slots) and always brings me back a couple of package of wild rice.

Just this past weekend, I made one of my signature dinners — baked pheasant with wild rice dressing. It’s one of the dishes I like to make when we have company.

The compliment I hear most about the dressing is that the wild rice is so tender. My secret is to cook it a low temperature (325 degrees) for about two hours then lower the heat to 275 degrees for about the last hour.

Here’s my recipe, along with another from the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Wild Rice Dressing
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 cup wild rice
1 10½-ounce can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic Soup
½ to 1 cup red wine
½ pint half and half
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 cup water
Mix the onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms and wild rice with red wine, soup and water in a large, greased oven-proof baking dish. Add half and half.
Bake dressing at 325 degrees for 2 to 3 hours or until done. If the mixture gets a little dry, occasionally add some water.
Serving suggestion: Cook with cut-up pieces of chicken, pheasant or other fowl. If you brown the meat, deglaze the pan with wine and pour over wild rice mixture.

Brown and Wild Rice Walnut Dressing
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup cooked wild rice
2 cups cooked brown rice
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon rubbed sage
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup chicken broth
In small skillet, cook onion, celery and garlic in butter until tender. Combine with remaining ingredients. Place in buttered baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 5 minutes.