Monday, July 22, 2013

Taste Alabama Tradition II: Sausage-Wild Rice Casserole

It's time for another journey down South, this time to celebrate a new cookbook I received from a generous co-conspirator: Taste Alabama Tradition II, compiled by the Alabama Division of the American Cancer Society in 1991.

Today's recipe will highlight my lifelong affinity for comforting casserole classics. In this case, Sausage-Wild Rice Casserole.

As you can see, TAT2 features the spiral binding that is the unmistakable sign of a cookbook meant to actually be cooked from, and not merely to sit looking sophisticated on the shelf. Another good sign: the ingredient list starts with 1 pound of sausage.

The Bob Evans pork sausage (it was cheaper than Jimmy Dean) joins its brothers on the cutting board. I decided to slice my own mushrooms rather than use the kind in the can, switch from oleo to butter, and to upgrade the crunchy topping element from sliced almonds to Utz Red Hot potato chips. (Additional addition not pictured: green bell pepper, mostly for color.)

First, we start by boiling up the long grain and wild rice just as Uncle Ben would have intended. That'll take about 25 minutes, so we have time to wash and slice the mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.

Freshly rinsed of all woodland detritus, the mushrooms are ready for the board. But, as long as we're multitasking, we might as well get the sausage cooking in the skillet.

There's an excellent moment of happiness as the sausage first hits the hot cast iron and begins to sizzle. In fact, it's so good, you'll probably want to watch and listen to approximately 9 seconds of it.

And you get the idea with the rest of the ingredients - one by one they all arrived. The meat was browned; the onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and water chestnuts were sauteed; the rice was boiled and fluffed with fork, and a kind of a gravy was mixed. Eventually we reached the excited pool-party point in the evening: everybody in!

Upon stirring everything together at the same heat, it was time for our medley of friendly ingredients to evacuate to the safety of a glass casserole dish.

These tasty morsels are ready for their close-up. All that remains was about 45 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees...and one final step.

Before the final 10 minutes, our hot and bubbly dish receives a coating of crushed red hot potato chips. I didn't decide to make this chnage until the last minute, so it's a good thing there are two 7-11 locations each less than half a mile from my house.

Which brings us to the finished view of the evening's thing de résistance, the completed casserole. After letting it solidify briefly, the real task still lies before us: enthusiastic consumption.

During the process of ingredient-cooking and flavor-blending we sort of lost the visual accent of the green peppers, but rest assured they're in there and helping things along. Final verdict: a pork sausage and veggie success.

Special thanks to recipe contributor Martha Williams of Hale County.

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