It’s finally Friday, and I hope everyone has had a speedy trip to the weekend this week. Over the past few days, our tiny NYC kitchen has been filled with lots of cooking, and subsequently, lots of trying new recipes – and sharing them on the blog!
Last night Cara and I hosted a surprise birthday party at our apartment for our good friend Corinne, who turns 24 today (Happy Birthday Cor!). All our friends who attended came bearing the most delicious variety of appetizers and dishes – stuffed mushrooms with a cheesy pesto filling, “pizza dip” made from layered cream cheese, marinara sauce, green peppers and shredded cheese (which tastes insanely similar to pizza on top of a tortilla chip), and a greek salad with feta cheese and crunchy seasoned croutons.
Cara made two dilectable desserts, and despite the fact that we were only seven girls, I’m proud to say we devoured most of them. The first was one of Corinne’s favorites – Funfetti cupcakes with chocolate AND vanilla frosting, and lots of confetti sprinkles. Say what you will about the gourmet cupcake trend and homemade buttercream, but at the end of the day, few things can beat straight-out-the-box funfetti cupcakes – they never disappoint! Plus, I can’t think of a dessert that looks better with candles in it.
The second dessert was an outstanding confection that is one of Cara’s specialty, but because it is slightly dangerous, it only surfaces once every three years or so. Why are they dangerous, you might ask? Mostly because it is physically impossible to eat just one of these, and after four, you’re fully addicted. We’ll call this dessert “Oh-Danesky Bars,” and they are possibly the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had… but more on that (and the secret recipe) to come later…
For our main course, we had the scrumptous greek salad Diana brought, along with Chicken Parmesan that I modified from a Food & Wine recipe. The chicken parm came out pretty good, considering I had to make the cutlets the night before, but I look forward to making this dish again with everything freshly prepared, and possibly adding in the pepperoni this rendition called for (I left it out this time). Corinne did say it was among the best Chicken Parm she’d ever had, but I think she was just being nice
I also finally got to make a recipe that I’ve been dying to make ever since I first tasted it, and a recipe I couldn’t wait to share with everyone who reads this blog. This dish is a specialty of my boyfriend’s mom, Robin, who is a fabulous home cook (in the twenty-four hours I was visiting her home, she served us so many varied and gourmet dishes, I could barely keep up!) She made this as part of the dinner she served on New Year’s Day, and I’ve been fantasizing about it ever since – needless to say, it only took about 24 hours before I was begging her for the recipe.
I also made this dish the night before the party, and while it definitely would have been better served fresh, it stood up pretty well to stove top and oven reheating. This dish is savory, hearty comfort food, and would go well with just about any protein main course I could think of – it went amazingly well with the beef tenderloin Robin made, and stood up nicely alongside the chicken parm. I’d imagine this would also be very fitting with this quick and easy chicken or this French classic. But then again, when you combine four wonderful ingredients like wild rice, mushrooms, pecans, and tart cherries, it’s hard to mess up. Not to mention, this is yet another great dish that basically cooks itself – with about 15 minutes of prep work up front, this baby goes in the oven and you don’t have to see it again until it’s ready. And it’s large enough to feed a small nation (seriously. Seriously.) Are you convinced yet? Have I sold you? Then here’s how you make it:
Wild Rice & Mushroom Casserole (makes 10 – 12 servings)
- 1 pound of mushrooms, sliced (recommend baby Portobello or white button)
- 3 tablespoons of chopped green onion
- 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 packages of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice (recommended, but other pre-seasoned wild rice blends can be used)
- 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth (plus extra, if needed)
- 2 cups of whipping cream
- 1 cup of dried tart red cherries (chopped dried apricots could also work)
- 1 cup of pecans (3/4 cup slivered or halved, 1/4 cup whole)
- 1 tsp salt
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat, add the sliced mushrooms and green onions. Saute until cooked through and a light golden brown. Transfer the mushrooms and onions to a large greased casserole dish or French Oven, and stir in the wild rice (and seasoning packets, if included), broth, whipping cream, cherries, and salt. Also add in 3/4 cup of the pecans, which you can break in half by hand as you add or sliver/chop ahead of time (the remainder you can leave whole). Stir to mix well.
Cover tightly, and bake the whole thing at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. I recommend stirring this once or twice throughout the process – it might slow down your cooking time a bit, but it will ensure the rice cooks evenly. Once the rice is cooked, take the casserole out of the oven, uncover, and sprinkle with the remaining whole pecans. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pecans are toasted. Let the casserole stand for about fifteen minutes before serving, and then dig in. Just make sure you have a small army present – with a full french oven full of delicious wild rice, tender portobello mushrooms, and rich, succulent flavors, you can make a LOT of people very happy.