Rich cream sauce stands in for canned soup in Minnesota chef Amy Thielen's spin on classic chicken and wild rice hotdish. The recipe comes from Amy's book The New Midwestern Table (clarksonpotter.com).

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Ingredients

Directions

  • In a small saucepan, bring the rice, the water, a pinch of salt and the bay leaf to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, about 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender. (Drain off any remaining cooking liquid.)

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  • Meanwhile, melt butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

  • Sprinkle flour over vegetables in pan; stir until well combined. Add milk and bring mixture to a simmer, whisking to prevent any lumps. Add the cream, stock, thyme, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat about 5 minutes. Add the cooked chicken, wild rice (minus the bay leaf ) and half of the cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

  • Pour the mixture into a buttered 3-quart baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, put the crushed crackers, olive oil and a 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a heavy plastic bag; shake to combine. Sprinkle the cracker mixture evenly over the chicken mixture, and bake for 25 minutes more, until crackers are dark brown and center is bubbly.

Cooking Wild Rice

Minnesota chef Amy Thielen cooks with truly wild rice harvested from local lakes (as opposed to the cultivated wild rice sold at supermarkets). It has a smokier flavor and lighter texture, but either will work in her recipes. Keep in mind that farmed varieties take longer to cook; follow package directions. You can buy natural wild rice online; search for ¿Minnesota wild rice¿ and avoid anything labeled cultivated. Because it¿s hand-processed, natural wild rice needs extra TLC. Rinse the rice under running water in a sieve, swishing the rice with your hand until the water runs clear. Transfer the rice to a saucepan and add water to cover. Pour off any black bits or floating kernels, and pour the rice back into the sieve to drain.

Nutrition Facts

456 calories; 32 g total fat; 102 mg cholesterol; 465 mg sodium. 25 g carbohydrates; 19 g protein;

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