It’s funny to me that when you have one baby, and you are left at home alone with said baby for a whole day, you fall into bed that night feeling exhausted from chasing your baby all over and feeding, changing and cleaning up after him or her. Somehow, when you have three small children and you are left home alone with just the baby, you feel like someone gave you the day off! You kick your feet up, watch Netflix, take a nap, read a book and fall into bed less tired than you’ve felt in YEARS. This must be what is meant by the expression “It’s all relative.”
So last Saturday, Paul took Emmett and Isla to meet up with some friends for the day and I stayed home with Eve. We had so much fun. I relaxed, watched TV (of the non-animated variety), read and just puttered around the house, happy to have some one-on-one time with my youngest. The only productive thing I did all day was cook.
I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite cookbooks, the New Midwest Table by Amy Thielen and remembered the part where she talks about how her husband and his dad harvest wild rice that grows, yes, wild, in Minnesota where they live. Apparently, they line a canoe with plastic and use one big stick to pull the rice over the canoe and another to whack the rice off so that it falls in. After harvesting a canoeful, 50 or more pounds of rice, they take it to a local parcher. Once the rice is parched, it is ready to be cooked and eaten. I’ve decided that hand-harvesting wild rice in a canoe is something I definitely have to do once before I die. But not Saturday. Saturday was my day off. Still, I had wild rice on my mind so I decided to make this simple, homey dish adapted slightly from one in Ms. Thielen’s book.
When I poured it into the casserole dish I have to admit I was a little concerned that I overdid it. There was a lot of food in there. That turned out not to be a problem at all. My brother-in-law came over on Sunday and helped us polish off a good portion of it and Paul opted to take some to work for lunch. In fact, we were lucky to have any leftover. I’m pretty sure I will have to double the recipe once the kids get older.
I wish you could see how delicious this thing looks when it comes out of the broiler all brown and bubbling and ready to serve. I’m so mad at myself for forgetting to take a photo of that part. I really am terrible at remembering to take photos in general, but especially photos of food. I think I’m just too focused on the eating part. Anyway, by the time I remembered to take a photo, dinner was over, the casserole had been mostly demolished and the rest was packed away to send home with my brother-in-law and for Paul’s lunch the next day. Maybe they should make Instagrammable tupperware? I bet that could be the next big thing.
Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Rice Hotdish
Adapted slightly from the New Midwest Table by Amy Thielen
2 chicken breasts (cooked and chopped into bite sized pieces)
2 cups cooked wild rice (start with about ¾ cup uncooked rice)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
¾ cup chicken stock
1 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
16 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 stalked of celery, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 cup shredded cheese, divided (use whatever you like, gouda, mozzarella, or a blend)
Salt and pepper
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
Preheat oven to 350F.
Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a large saute pan and heat over medium high heat.
Once the butter is melted add mushrooms, celery, garlic, thyme and shallot and season with salt.
Cook until most of the liquid cooks out of the vegetables and the mushrooms begin to brown.
Add the remaining butter and sprinkle flour over the mushroom mixture in the pan.
Add milk, stock and cream, whisking to incorporate so that no lumps form.
Cook about 1 to 2 minutes or until liquid has thickened and no longer has a raw flour taste.
Add half of the cheese and the chives and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Add chopped chicken and cooked rice and stir until the rice and chicken are well incorporated into the mushroom mixture.
Pour into a casserole pan and smooth out the top.
At this point, you can refrigerate until you are ready to bake or cover with foil and place in your preheated oven for 40 minutes.
Remove foil, crumble crackers in their sleeve until they are about the size and texture of large breadcrumbs.
Pour cracker crumbles in an even layer on top of casserole.
Spread remaining shredded cheese over crackers.
Change oven setting to broil and broil for 2-5 minutes watching closely to make sure the crackers do not burn.