There are many ways to make wild rice salad, most of them include sweet things or cranberries. This recipe isn’t like that. It’s savory.
I generally make this salad as a side dish for game or fish, but you could easily make this a vegetarian main course.
The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of wild rice: Farmed and wild. I know that sounds weird, but wild rice is not actually rice. It’s another species of plant called Zizania palustris that is native to the Great Lakes region in both the United States and Canada.
When farmed, wild rice grains are inky black and about the same size as basmati rice. The grains of real wild rice, as in that which has been gathered from the wild, are longer, more irregular, and lighter in color than supermarket wild rice. It also cooks in less than half the time. It often goes by the Ojibwe name Mahnomen.
Real wild rice is also parched over fire, which lends a subtle smoky flavor to it. How do you get it? That hotlink a paragraph up will take you to my friend Sam Thayer’s website, where you can buy it. Or go to a gas station in the Upper Midwest, where I’ve seen it next to the smoked fish in places like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or northern Wisconsin or Minnesota.
This wild rice salad will work with either truly wild or farmed rice.
My take on wild rice salad is deeply Northern. I use an oil well suited to wild rice: Unrefined canola oil, which is to the refined crap what a troll is to a supermodel. Golden, beautiful, grassy and bold. Wonderful stuff, but hard to find outside of Canada. Any decent nut oil or unrefined sunflower oil would be other good choices.
I find that mushrooms are a must with wild rice salad. They add heft, savoriness and texture. Any nice mushroom will do here, from cremini to shiitake in the supermarket, to porcini, morels or chanterelles from the wild.
You’ll want some element of acidity here, too. Malt vinegar is a decent option, but I prefer homemade stout vinegar or even pontack, or homemade walnut ketchup. I realize you probably don’t have any homemade vinegar, pontack or walnut ketchup kicking around, but Worcestershire sauce will get you close.
What’s the net effect? Really, really savory. Balanced with the tart walnut ketchup (or Worcestershire), meaty from the mushrooms and pleasantly chewy with the wild rice. If you wanted to make things pop even more, yes, you could add a handful of cranberries, tart wild blueberries or lingonberries right at the end.
As I mentioned, wild rice salad is a worthy vegetarian dinner, but I designed it as a side dish for simply cooked duck breasts or venison backstrap. Either way, it’s just damn good.
Wild Rice Salad with Mushrooms
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 quart chicken broth, or any other nice broth
- 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, or any other mushroom you like
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
- 1 yellow or white onion, sliced thin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage (or rosemary)
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil, or some other nice oil
- 2 tablespoons dark beer vinegar, Worcestershire or walnut ketchup
- Black pepper to taste
- Bring the broth to a boil and add the wild rice. Simmer this until the rice is done, checking after 20 minutes; real wild rice will be done, but farmed will likely need up to another 20 minutes. When the rice is done, drain it and set it aside.
- Get a large sauté pan hot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. Shake the pan and let the mushrooms sear until they start to give up their water. Once they do, sprinkle with salt. Once the water has mostly boiled away, add the butter or vegetable oil and the sliced onion. Toss to combine. Cook, stirring often, until you get some nice browning on both the mushrooms and the onion.
- Add the garlic and sage and cook another minute or two. Add the wild rice and the remaining ingredients to the pan, toss to combine and let cook one more minute. Serve hot or at room temperature.