Going nutty over rice Entertaining: A mix of wild and white rices takes on extra allure with the addition of pecans, fennel and prosciutto.

November 29, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

In the South where I grew up, rice was a favorite dish. As a youngster I adored my grandmother's New Orleans-style red beans served over mounds of white rice, and I remember devouring my mother's fried chicken served with fluffy rice napped with pan gravy. Smothered pork chops and minute steaks, two more Southern specialties, were also accompanied by servings of simple white rice at our house.

Although the rice I remember from my youth was generally boiled white rice, I've experimented with countless varieties during my cooking career. I've used Indian basmati rice, Thai jasmine rice, Italian arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano species, as well as pecan rice from Louisiana and wild rice from Minnesota. I even like combining rices and have found that wild rice (which is actually a wild grass) paired with white converted rice makes a particularly pleasing alliance.

Recently, for example, at one of my cooking classes I prepared wild and white rice with pecans, fennel and prosciutto. To assemble it, I sauteed diced prosciutto in a small amount of butter, then added chopped leeks and fennel and cooked the vegetables several minutes before stirring in the rices and a generous seasoning of tarragon. I simmered the mixture in chicken stock and white wine until all the liquid was absorbed and then incorporated some chopped pecans. The finished dish, bursting with robust flavors and interesting textures, was a big -- hit with my students.

I liked this pilaf so much that I have already served it at one dinner party and am planning to use it again for another. This is an ideal dish for holiday entertaining. It's delicious as an )R accompaniment to roast poultry (I served it with Cornish hens), with roast filet of beef or with grilled or oven-baked salmon. The recipe serves eight to 10 but can be doubled for larger groups. And, best of all, you can make the rice in advance and reheat it when needed.

Wild and White Rice With Pecans, Fennel and Prosciutto

Serves 8 to 10

1 1/2 cups wild rice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 pound thickly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup chopped leeks, white parts only

1 medium fennel bulb, stemmed, halved lengthwise, cored and chopped

1 cup long grain white rice, preferably converted rice (see Note)

2 teaspoons dried tarragon

1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus more if needed

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

2/3 cup pecans, chopped

4 to 5 fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish, optional

Bring 2 quarts water to boil in heavy, medium saucepan. Add wild rice and cook 10 minutes. (This will help to soften hard wild rice grains.) Drain well and set aside.

Heat butter in large, heavy saucepan with lid or deep-sided casserole dish (with lid) over medium-high heat. When hot, add prosciutto and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

In same pan over medium-high heat, saute leeks and fennel together until softened, about 3 minutes. Add both rices, dried tarragon, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, pepper, stock and wine. Bring mixture to simmer and cook, covered, until all liquid has been absorbed, about 35 minutes.

(Rice can be made ahead to this point. Uncover and cool rice. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 day. Reheat over low heat, adding 1/4 to 1/3 cup additional chicken stock if mixture seems very dry, stirring constantly.)

Remove from heat. Stir in prosciutto and pecans. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Mound rice in serving bowl. Garnish center with bouquet of tarragon sprigs.

Note: Converted rice has been parboiled so that it retains much of its nutritional value when hulls are removed. Traditional white rice loses many nutrients when hulled (that is when husk and bran layers are removed.).

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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