Not a spud, or a dud.
I had some rice and some mushrooms that I’d picked up at Costco. Although “picked up” is a relative term. Coming from Costco, I needed a forklift to lift the rice, and a weightlifter’s belt to hoist the ’shrooms into our cart.
The Kid was coming for dinner. On the menu was pork chops with pretzel crust, and blistered green beans with garlic oil. Since I had approximately 140 pounds of rice, it would be the starch portion of the program. I also wanted to use the mushrooms with the rice.
My first impulse was to maybe make a pilaf. But I just couldn’t work up the slightest bit of enthusiasm for pilaf. Maybe it would have been OK if there was some kind of sauce with the pork, but it was going to be baked. And, they were loin chops, which is the leanest part of a pig.
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I kept thinking.
Some type of sauce with mushrooms over the rice might work. My very favorite is Marsala.
Maybe somewhere in this world, there’s a totally delicious, yet light and healthy Marsala sauce, but I’ve never heard of it, let alone tasted it.
It’s like Big Foot. There are people who’ve never seen him, yet are convinced he exists. Then there are people who swear they’ve seen him, but their credibility is, shall we say, less than stellar. As with a low-cal Marsala, definitive documented proof of the beast has never been established.
My version of the sauce contains mushrooms, garlic, Marsala, and enough cream to supply Starbucks for weeks. It’s as rich as Lady Gaga’s wig maker and as caloric as a day at the state fair.
Able to stop a healthy young heart by the third bite? Yeah…probably.
So, back to thinking.
In the end, I decided to try something new, and once more use my unsuspecting family as guinea pigs. I would make twice-baked stuffed potatoes, but use rice instead of potatoes.
It still isn’t spa food, but it’s not as life-threatening as Marsala sauce.
Since this is a riff on loaded, twice baked spuds put in them what you like to put in your own baked potatoes. I would have put in at least a couple handfuls of chives or scallions, but they are food-a non grata for The Kid (and Petey could live a long, happy life without them, as well).
But hey, go nuts. You know, actually nuts would probably be pretty darn good in the rice.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes, and cooks in Durham. Contact her at email@example.com
Loaded baked rice
1 ½ cups uncooked long-grain rice
3 ¼ cups water
8 slices bacon
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2/3 cups white wine
1 ½ cups light sour cream
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, cut into small cubes
3 cups shredded hoop or cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Slice bacon into ½-inch pieces and place in a skillet. Cook on medium-low until crispy. Put bacon on paper towel-covered plate and set aside. Pour bacon grease out, leaving about a tablespoon.
Turn skillet to medium-high and put in mushrooms and shallots. Lightly season. Cover and cook until liquid’s released from mushrooms. Uncover and cook until vegetables are dry and caramelized. Pour in wine and cook until it’s completely absorbed.
Make rice: put rice and water into saucepan with lid. Throw in a pinch of salt and pepper. Turn on medium-high and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 17 minutes or until all the water is gone. Leave covered and take off heat. Let sit 15 minutes undisturbed.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a three or four-quart casserole dish.
Uncover rice. Add mushrooms and shallots, 2 cups cheese, half the bacon, sour cream. Stir until well combined. Gently fold in cream cheese. Season, and re-season if necessary.
Pour into casserole and smooth the top. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until rice begins to brown and crisp up around the edges.
Uncover. Sprinkle with cheese. Sprinkle remaining bacon on top. Cook under broiler until cheese is bubbly and brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before service.