It is hard to believe that my year of delving into the Top 10 Food Trends as a Sargento Flavor Journey Correspondent is winding down.  It has been an amazing journey in so many ways as I have traveled halfway across the country to spend time in the Sargento test kitchen, meet celebrity chef Rick Bayless, and venture into previously unexplored territory closer to home.

With the holiday season upon us, the fabulous folks at Sargento and the five other bloggers who explored these trends along with me, thought it would be fun to create some recipes that might just become new holiday favorites.  For my own contribution, I offer the following option to the traditional stuffing or dressing that happens to be bread-less and gluten-free. This is something I created to satisfy those in my family who cannot enjoy the traditional version, and it has become a year round favorite.

This wild rice and sausage casserole pairs well with poultry, red meat, and even salmon, yet is hearty enough to enjoy as the main dish with a simple green salad on the side.  Prepare it in advance and gently reheat if you are making this as a part of a larger meal.  It’s one of those dishes that tastes even better as the flavors have time to meld.

Below my recipe, you will find images of the other five dishes and links to those recipes and the corresponding bloggers who created them.  I encourage you to pay them a visit and look around a little.  These women have countless recipes on their sites, including quite a few that include the flavor trends they worked with over the last year.

And though this journey may be coming to an end, stay tuned for more delicious recipes using cheese in the months ahead.  As they say, when one journey ends, another one begins!

Wild Rice and Sausage Casserole

Yield: about 6 cups

Wild Rice and Sausage Casserole

Initially created as a stuffing for poultry, we enjoy this hearty, satisfying dish throughout the year as the main meal. The sharp, nutty flavor of Parmesan is a recent addition that rounds out the flavors beautifully. My original recipe called for a half cup of chopped pecans, but I more recently substituted water chestnuts which offer a welcome crunch. Feel free to use either option.

  • 2/3 cup (4 1/2 ounces) wild rice blend (may substitute brown rice)
  • 1 pound turkey or pork sausage, casings removed
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped (see notes)
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts (about half a 5-ounce can; see comments above)
  • 1/2 cup Sargento shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole.
  2. To prepare the rice, bring 1 1/4 ounces of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rice, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until the water is just absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to sit, covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. (At this point, you may cool and then cover and refrigerate the rice for up to 2 days.)
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the sausage until evenly brown, crumbling the meat as it cooks. Remove to a mixing bowl.
  4. In the same skillet over medium heat, cook the mushrooms, onion, and celery until the mushrooms release their liquid and the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic for the last 30-60 seconds, stirring until you can smell it but it is not brown. (If the skillet seems dry at any point, add a drizzle of olive oil.) Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  5. To the sausage, add the cooked rice, mushroom mixture, parsley, egg, water chestnuts, Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper.
  6. Mix until combined and then turn into the prepared baking dish.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hot throughout. Garnish with additional parsley, if desired.

Notes

I like to dice half of the mushrooms and thickly slice the other half for the best flavor and visual appeal. If you are not a fan of mushrooms, you may omit and increase the amount of sausage by 1/4 pound.

The egg is a nice addition, but for those who may have an egg allergy, it may be omitted.

May be prepared a day in advance, covered tightly, and refrigerated until ready to eat. In this case, extend the baking time; exact time will vary based on proportions of casserole. When making ahead and cooking cold from the refrigerator, bake tightly covered in foil, uncovering for the last 5-10 minutes.

http://fountainavenuekitchen.com/wild-rice-sausage-casserole/

Flanboyant Eats, “French Onion Soup” (Soup Course)

Baked Bree, “Ham and Cheese Pinwheels” (Appetizer Course)

Big Girls Small Kitchen, “Cheesy Mushroom Crostini” (Appetizer Course)

The Noble Pig, “Cheesy Browned Butter-Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes” (Side Dish)

The Naptime Chef, “Savory Rosemary and Bacon Bread Pudding” (Side Dish)

A special thank you to all the people at Sargento who made this year of food, fun, and learning–and a lot of cheese–such a memorable one. Thanks also to Rick Bayless for being the mind behind the trends and the rest of the food bloggers for their creative inspiration and recipes.