Thanksgiving side dish: Wild rice pilaf

Wild rice pilaf is a lovely, autumnal dish when paired with apples, cranberries and pecans and would make an especially tasty side for a Thanksgiving meal.

The Runaway Spoon
Wild rice pilaf is a lovely, autumnal dish when paired with apples, cranberries and pecans.

Thanksgiving is all about tradition. I would be ejected from my family if I didn’t serve certain things on the holiday table (sweet potatoes, corn pudding, cranberries).

I think most families have that feeling – a special dish you may eat only on Thanksgiving, but the holiday simply wouldn’t be the same without it. And I know it can sometimes be the source of some tension (the mashed regular versus candied sweet potato divide). So I make sure those dishes are on the table, because I love them, too, and I want to make everyone happy. But every once in a while, I like to throw in a little twist, something new and different to us. That’s where this dish comes in.

Wild rice is not something we grew up eating very often, and never included it in the Thanksgiving spread, but it has such a lovely, autumnal dish when paired with apples, cranberries and pecans, I thought it would suit us very nicely. Not only is it delicious, it’s very pretty, with the jeweled tones of fall. And it is quite forgiving – it can sit warm on the buffet for some time, and is equally tasty at room temperature.

Any leftovers, warmed with a little broth, is a great side for a turkey sandwich. And of course, it is not only for Thanksgiving; it makes a wonderful side to a roasted chicken or pork roast on any autumn night. I ordered some wonderful hand-harvested rice for my table.

Wild rice pilaf
Serves 6

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 apple, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups wild rice, rinsed several times in cold water
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
juice and zest of one orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 bay leaves
a few stalks of fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Melt the butter and oil together in a 2 to 3 quart stove and oven proof pot with a lid. Stir in the onions, carrot and celery and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften. Add the apple and stir. Add the salt. Cook until everything is soft and wilted, about 10 minutes. (Note: I chop the apple while the vegetables are starting, so it doesn’t brown while waiting.)

3. Add the wild rice and stir to coat in the butter and oil and cook for three minutes longer. Stir in the chicken broth, orange juice and zest and the cranberries. Drop in the bay leaves and thyme (count how many stems so you can remove them all later). Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.

4. Bake the rice for 1 hour. After 30 minutes, give it a light stir and check to see that there is ample liquid left. About 10 minutes before the hour is up, remove the lid and check the liquid level, if it is all absorbed, remove the pot from the oven, or continue cooking until it is. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaves.

5. Fluff the rice with a fork, the stir in the pecans and parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.

6. Serve hot or warm.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Sweet Potato Casserole with Cider, Orange and Maple

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