JT and I were sipping wine in the living room by a roaring fire, we were discussing the Christmas “Do-Over” dinner that we decided to host in January. I had just done all the shopping for the menu and then JT mentions that his family are not much stuffing lovers. THAT in itself is blasphemous, but what made it worse is that I had just done all the shopping. Did I mention that I had just done all the shopping? I had bought a lot of mushrooms. A LOT. And they weren’t cheap so they were not going to be omitted from the dinner!
So instead of making a stuffing of mushrooms and chestnuts I created a pilaff! And what a success it was; the earthy mushroom flavours with the slightly chewy texture of the wild rice and the sweet chestnuts and brown rice complimented each other so well, I decided to blog about it so I don’t forget to make it next time. This recipe is really just a combination of suggestions, so if you don’t like something, omit it and add a bit of something else. Even the volumes of everything are a suggestion, so put on your recipe developer hat and make this pilaff your own!
Another great thing is that you can make it the day before so you’re not in a panic the day that 6 people descend on you!
Wild Mushroom Rice Pilaff with Chestnuts and Cognac
Serves 8-10 as part of two other side dishes.
- 500 g – 1 kg wild mushrooms (I used 1 Portobello, ~5 cremini, ~12 shitaki, ~1 large bunch oyster), chopped roughly
- 300 g (3.5 oz) roasted chestnuts, peeled and chopped roughly
- 1/4 cup pancetta, diced rather small
- 1/2 sweet onion (about 1 cup), chopped finely
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/3 cup wild rice (cooked, as per directions)
- 1/4 cup sweet brown rice (cooked, as per directions)
- 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- In a very hot Dutch oven, cook pancetta until crispy, remove and drain on paper towel and set aside. You may use the pancetta grease to cook in, but it you’d rather be a touch healthier, wipe out the pan and spray with a little non-stick cooking spray.
- Cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the cognac. Add the butter to the hot pan and once melted add the chopped mushrooms. Cook with the top off until the mushrooms are no longer chewy.
- Stir in the pancetta, chestnuts and cooked rice until well blended. Spray non-stock cooking spray in a decorative casserole dish which can be put into the oven and pour the mushrooms and rice into it. Don’t pack it down.
- If you are making this the day before, allow to cool completely and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, remove the pilaff from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and reheat for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.
- You may ‘chop’ the mushrooms in a food processor to save time, but be careful not to chop too finely. I did not use this method because I wanted larger, identifiable mushroom pieces.
- You may also use barley, wheat berries or any other sturdy grain instead of wild rice.
- Cooking sherry may be substituted for the cognac or brandy, but I prefer cognac with mushrooms.
- I like to buy already peeled and roasted chestnuts like these, but you can roast and peel your own.
- To add another layer of texture and flavour, add 1/2 cup of chopped roasted pecans.