The challenge of trying new recipes is ever present, new cookbooks to read, alluring photos that inspire me, food blogs teeming with irresistible delights. But there are some dishes I go back to again and again. And when I make them, I do not change a thing. My orange and pecan wild rice pilaf is one such dish. I really, truly follow the recipe exactly, which is not true of most of the cooking I do, where improvisation and inspiration rule.
This rice pilaf is pretty close to perfect, a buttery, nutty blend of basmati and wild rice dotted with some caramelized vegetables and the crunch of toasted pecans. I accent these elements with fresh orange zest which trumpets out a bright, cheerful essence, and sprinkle in a good dose of fresh herbs for colour and green goodness. Dried cranberries make an appearance too, cooking into tart softness along with the long-simmering wild rice. There are some standard trusty combinations at play here, contributing to the overall success of the dish: wild rice and pecans. Sage and wild rice. Orange and cranberries. Celery and onions. Cranberries and wild rice. Altogether, this dish sings out with graceful flavour and homey comfort, a perfect way to compliment grilled or roasted main courses.
This pilaf looks so striking on a plate, I like to lay it out in a thin layer over most of a plate's surface and lay a hot, juicy skewer of grilled chicken and vegetables over it. A few lightly dressed micro greens on the plate is all you need for a well-rounded meal. The rice speaks to me of summer barbeques and fall's cornucopia of produce, winter's need for warmth and spring's good cheer. Simply put, it is wonderful any time at all, one of those simple/special dishes that is easy to prepare but extraordinary when eaten.
Wild Rice With Orange and Pecans
3 tbsp. butter, divided; 1 medium sweet onion, chopped; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 cup wild rice; 1/2 cup dried cranberries; 2 cups hot chicken broth; 1/2 tsp. each salt, pepper, dried thyme and sage; 1 bay leaf; 1/2 cup diced celery; 1/2 cup diced red pepper; 1/2 cup chopped pecans; grated zest from 2 oranges; 1/2 cup chopped parsley; 1 cup raw white or brown rice.
Cook raw white or brown rice your usual way. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt 1+1/2 tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft. In a sieve, rinse wild rice under cold water, drain well and stir into onion mixture. Toast rice in the pan for a few minutes and then stir in broth, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, bay leaf and dried cranberries. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 60 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed. It is OK if the rice remains moist but should not be very wet.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 1+1/2 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook celery, red pepper, pecans and zest for about 5 minutes until very fragrant and toasty looking, stirring often.
Combine cooked celery and pepper mixture with both the cooked wild and white or brown rice. Stir in parsley. Serves 4 - 6 people.
Keep those fragrant rice dishes coming all year round: