A side dish for many main events

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Whether you're serving a glistening, glazed ham, stately standing prime rib of beef, a sleek leg of lamb, golden roasted turkey or another equally tantalizing Christmas main course, if you're like me you may remain undecided on the side dishes until the last minute. I'm opting for a beef tenderloin as the star attraction this year, and I've picked a dessert (chocolate chestnut cheesecake) and an appetizer (Stilton surrounded with dried fruit and crisp crackers). But the accompaniments were still up in the air until a few days ago.

During a recent cooking class where I prepared wild rice with apples, cranberries and sausage as part of the menu, I had a eureka moment, suddenly realizing that this side dish was so versatile it could accompany any number of holiday entrees. The pilaf will certainly complement my beef fillet, but it would be just as tempting with pork, poultry or lamb.

This dish is made with both wild and long-grain rice simmered in stock and white wine along with bits of robust kielbasa sausage, diced apples and dried cranberries. The sweet accents of the fruits contrast well with the saltiness of the sausage. Dried sage adds a distinctive herbal note, while toasted almonds provide a little crunch.

The rice can be prepared a day ahead (a gift for stressed holiday cooks), then reheated in about 15 minutes in the oven. A single recipe serves 10 to 12 but can be halved or increased, depending upon how many will be at your table.

On Dec. 25, when so many of us entertain family and friends, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a day filled with joyous feasting.

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.

Wild Rice with Apples, Cranberries and Sausage

Serves 10 to 12

2 cups wild rice

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces kielbasa (either regular or the reduced-fat variety), cut in 1/4 -inch dice

1 cup baby carrots, thinly sliced

2/3 cup chopped shallots

1 cup long-grain rice (Basmati rice works well)

4 teaspoons dried rubbed (not powdered) sage leaves

Kosher salt

3 to 3 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into a 1/4 -inch dice

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (see note)

Fresh sage springs for garnish, optional

Add the wild rice to a medium pot of boiling water and cook 10 minutes. Drain the rice in a mesh strainer and set aside.

Melt butter in a large, heavy pot (with a lid) set over medium high heat. When hot, add kielbasa, carrots and shallots and cook, stirring, until vegetables are slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add both wild and long-grain rice; stir and cook a minute more until rice is lightly coated with butter. Stir in sage and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3 cups stock and wine. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and cook at a gentle simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in apples, cranberries and almonds. Cook, covered, until all liquid has been absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes more. Watch carefully. When done, taste rice and add more salt if needed. (Rice can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. To reheat, spread rice on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with 1/2 cup stock, cover with foil and warm in a preheated 350-degree oven about 15 minutes.) Mound rice in a large serving bowl or on a platter and garnish with a bouquet of sage sprigs.

Note: To toast almonds, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 350-degree oven until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.

Per serving: 346 calories, 11 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 48 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 408 milligrams sodium

The nutrition analysis was calculated by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.


Beef tenderloin

Stilton surrounded with dried fruit and crisp crackers

Wild rice with apples, cranberries and sausage

Chocolate chestnut cheescake

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