Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cheese Rice Casserole

Repulsed by the appearance of can condensed mushroom soup, I created this homemade version of cheese rice casserole to replace it.  The combination of the American brown and wild rice adds texture and chewiness. Please note that I use American short grain brown rice which is not washed and differs from Japanese short grained rice though I'm not sure why or how, but it does-- it's not so starchy so perhaps is more polished, but I'm guessing. Make this ahead of time and then bake it just before serving though I do not mix the rice into the sauce until I'm ready to put it in the oven as the rice absorbs too much of the sauce even though it's cooked. According to my daughter, there is no substitute for the Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese. We go to great lengths (and distances) to keep this particular cheese in stock around our house. This dish is the most requested menu item in our household and was after Mama and Dada, the most missed thing from home while at summer camp.

Cheese Rice Casserole
Serves 4 to 5. *Japanese Rice Cup (JRC) equals 3⁄4 cup.

Short Grain Brown Rice + Wild Rice Mixture, 2 ¼ cup (dry)= 3 JRC*
Water, 4 ½  cups = 5 ½  JRC
Butter, ½ cup 
All-purpose Flour, slight ½ cup
Fresh Rosemary, ~½ tsp (1 sprig)
Chicken or Vegetable Stock, 4 cups
Salt, 2/3 tsp 
Pepper, 2 grinds or a pinch +
Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 6 oz (170 gm), cut into 1-inch cubes
Breadcrumbs, 2 Tbsp for garnish
Broccoli, 1 cup finely chopped (optional and not Xan’s favorite)

Useful Equipment
Rice cooker or heavy bottomed pan with a fitted lid
Rice Paddle
Medium Sauce Pan
Food Processor or a sharp knife
Casserole Dish, 4 quart

Cook rice and water in either a rice cooker (follow device instructions) or use the stove top method. Stove top method: In a heavy bottomed pan with a tight fitting lid, bring water and rice to boil over medium heat. Immediately reduce heat to simmer and cover with the lid. Cook until the water is gone and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside. 

Make Sauce. In a medium pan, melt butter over medium low heat. Whisk flour into melted butter and cook about 2 minutes.  Add rosemary. Gradually whisk in stock and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes though it is still soupy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. 

Cook broccoli (if using). Bring pot of water to boil and add broccoli until bright green, about 2 minutes. Plunge into cold water, and drain. Place into food processor and pulse until finely chopped or chop finely with a knife.

Cut cheddar cheese into cubes.

Mix together. Using a rice paddle, stir the rice into the sauce and gently break up any rice clumps. Add the broccoli, cheese, and gently fold together.

Bake in casserole dish. Grease a casserole dish, add mixture, and sprinkle bread crumbs over the top. Bake at 375ºF (190ºC) until bubbling and browned, about 35 to 40 minutes. 

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