I have had sort of a rediscovery of wild rice as of late. When I was a kid I really never enjoyed it and I have only faked my way through enjoying it since then. This summer I was in Northern Minnesota and wanted to find some wild rice. I have been considering giving the whole ricing thing a try. I really enjoy harvesting and processing my own food so I figured, maybe if I went through the whole process of harvesting and processing wild rice I might enjoy it more. What discovered was a whole new appreciation for wild rice.
I had driven past a road side stand that advertised wild rice for $1.99 a pound. I had never seen it that cheap anywhere else so I was intrigued to find out what made this so inexpensive. What I found out inside this little shop was a little old lady who new more about wild rice than I would have thought possible. She walked me through the differences in cultivated and wild grown rice and taught me all about how to process the rice. Most of us are familiar with the black grains of wild rice that we buy at the grocery store. What most of us don't know is that wild rice is mostly cultivated and then dried over a 10-15 day process giving the rice that black color.
There is another method of processing called parching, where the rice is loaded into a half barrel or large cast iron cauldron and then set over a fire. The type of fire used is either wood or gas and believe it or not it makes a difference. The wood parched has a better flavor and lighter color in my opinion.
When I asked about the $1.99 a pound sign out front she told me that was for what they called soup rice. The rice kernels that are broken into small pieces during the harvest and parching process. This little old lady told me that it is just as good but they aren't the whole kernels that people like. I bought ten pounds of soup rice which ended up being 99 cents when you buy it in bulk.
The first thing I did with it was make a wild rice soup and it was fantastic. After that I used it to make a wild rice salad of sorts with beets and goats cheese and that was amazing. So I was on a roll with the wild rice and had found a couple of things I really enjoyed with it. I got the idea to try to make a wild rice main dish that would be the main course not just a side. I immediately thought about risotto. I wasn't sure it would work but thought I'd give it a shot anyway. Since wild rice and duck go together so well I used some homemade duck stock to make the rice. You could use any stock I imagine but the duck stock worked really well. I know I keep repeating the same thing over and over again but I am always trying new things and trying old things I didn't like. When I do I almost always find out that I have been missing out on something I truly enjoy. I served this risotto up with a fried eggplant and mozzarella sandwich and it was amazing.
Wild Rice Risotto
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of duck fat (or butter)
½ cup dry white wine
8 cups of duck stock warmed on the stove(or any stock you have)
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage leaves
2 tablespoons of butter
Melt the duck fat in a large pan and sauté the onions and garlic until they soften then add the wild rice and stir until all the wild rice is well coated with fat. Add the white wine and stir until almost all of the wine is absorbed. When the wine is almost all absorbed start adding the stock one ladle at a time and stirring the rice until the stock is all absorbed. Once one ladle of stock is absorbed add the next ladle until all the stock is used. This can be a time consuming process, about 25 minutes. When you add the last ladle of stock and the thyme and sage and stir into the rice. When the last of the stock is almost all absorbed add the butter and stir to combine. Serve immediately and enjoy.