Great Grains: Farmed “Wild” Rice, The Affordable Luxury

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Adding wild rice to holiday grain dishes dresses them right up. Here, Wild Rice Croquettes with a Creamy Mushroom Gravy (recipes after the jump).

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Native Americans in Minnesota (where I grew up) have been harvesting wild rice for thousands of years and do to this day, making it one of the few indigenous foods commonly acclaimed as part of Minnesota cuisine.  There, wild rice turns up in “hot dishes,” pancakes, breakfast porridge, stuffing, and soup most prominently. “Wild” rice is now mostly cultivated, although sometimes you can still find the hand-harvested, truly wild variety, and as it’s considered a delicacy, you will pay two to three times the price of farmed “wild” rice. (Order  truly wild rice on line, here.) I should add that we Californians are now free to consider wild rice a local food because California has come to rival Minnesota in the size of its farmed wild rice crop.

As much as I love the distinctive, earthy flavor of wild rice, I like it better mixed with other rice or grains than I do on its own. In recipes, I typically use four times as much regular rice as I do wild rice. Compared to brown rice, wild rice is higher in protein, and lower in fat and carbs–so it’s well suited to today’s dietary trends. If  you’ve never cooked wild rice, treat it pretty much as you would brown rice–perhaps increase the cooking time a little–and you can’t go wrong. My adaptable recipe for wild rice croquettes is after the jump. Depending on your needs, you could use this recipe as a main dish in a vegan or vegetarian meal, as a side dish, and the basic recipe can even be modified to make stuffing.  How’s that for versatile?

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Native American women harvesting wild rice, print by Mary H. Eastman, 1853.

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