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Feb 11, 2012 10:54 AM

Need Flavor Profile Advice

I am adapting a recipe I've tried before - for company. I was hoping to get some advice as to whether or not the flavor profile works. Nod for the original concept goes to a recipe from Chowhound called Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole. This is an adapted version

My questions are:

1) Does the sausage work with the flavor profile (concerned about the sherry and wine) If so,
Sage or Hot breakfast sausage
2) Should I grill the chicken to add smokiness or just bake it?

Chicken, Sausage and Wild Rice Casserole

small container of white mushrooms (fresh)
3/4 cup boiling water
1/3 cup uncooked wild rice
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 lb. Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage (sage or hot???)
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1/2 large red onion, small dice
1 large celery stalk, medium dice
1 medium carrot, peeled, medium dice
3/4 cup uncooked Arborio rice
4 ounces toasted sliced almonds
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
2 tablespoons dry sherry


Place wild rice in a small saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly ajar; reduce heat; and simmer until rice is almost completely cooked, about 18 to 20 minutes. (The rice will be chewy and swollen with a slightly burst-open appearance.) Drain in a colander and set aside.

Cook chicken breast (thought about grilling but wasn't sure). Cut cooked chicken into 1-2 inch pieces. Slice mushrooms and cook in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until browned. Set all aside.

Brown sausage in large skillet and drain. Set aside.

Using skillet that sausage was cooked in, add butter. When it foams, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Stir to coat the onion with butter and cook until the onion has softened a bit, about 2 minutes, then stir in the celery and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened but still uncooked in the center, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir in the Arborio rice, mixing well with a wooden spoon or spatula to coat each grain with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the outer layer of the rice becomes translucent and is just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it evaporates, about 1 minute.

Stir in the cooked wild rice and the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is slightly thickened and the Arborio rice is about 3/4 cooked, about 6 minutes (the mixture will be very soupy). Stir in the thyme, cream, and sherry, then remove from heat. Taste and if necessary season with more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in chicken, sausage and mushrooms.

Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Top with toasted almonds.

Bake the casserole until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 30 minutes .

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  1. this sounds like lots of pots and pans for what's essentially a chicken/rice casserole.

    the ingredients all sound fine, even if the wild rice and arborio add more work and fuss for what you'll get in the end. i also prefer potatoes with sausage, always.

    you can use the hot or sage sausage, either will work.

    don't grill the chicken, use a gentle cook method, like a soft sauté.

    the cream seems entirely unnecessary.

    i'd put the almonds on after baking so they don't burn.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      Thanks :) Your tip on the chicken was helpful and good to know I can use either sausage. I know it seems like a lot of pots and pans. My goal is to have the dish ready to pop in the oven for final heat before guests get here.

    2. 1) I have used wine or wine vinegar in many pork or sausage dishes; you are safe there. I wouldn't, however, use the sage flavour given all the other ingredients -- the spice would add a nice little kick, but the sage might muddle it or get lost entirely. Bear in mind I've never had that brand of breakfast sausage.

      2) I think you could do without that extra step. Why make work? :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: megjp

        Thanks! I think I'll go with the hot sausage.

      2. I love the flavors of thyme, cream and sherry with the chicken, but I wouldn't add a sagey or hot sausage to the mix. What are you going for? If you want a bit more protein, then choose a bit of cheese perhaps? Or, perhaps some shrimp? Mushrooms?

        This recipe does seem a lot of extra work for the payoff, except for the wonderful sensation of eating the arborio and wild rice together. To me it seems like a special dish with a luxurious taste.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sueatmo

          I was hoping the sausage would add some richness. When I made it initially, it was a bit bland.

          1. re: jillfiredup

            If you feel that sausage would help it taste it better, then I recommending going with your feelings. You've eaten the dish, and you know what you would like.

            Adding crab would add richness, but wouldn't make the flavor more vibrant. But the flavor would definitely be rich.

        2. this is an adaptation of a regional hunter's style casserole i'm pretty familiar with. i don't see why your recipe wouldn't work as you have it down right now, but i have some wonders: 1) i wonder why arborio rice in particular; really any type of medium or long grain, non-fragrant (read, not basmati or jasmine, etc) rice will work 2) i wonder why red onion; yellow or white will be fine, & if the answer is "for color"-- well, that color will have bled out over the long cooking time 3) i wonder why the jimmy dean sausage-- have had the casserole with fresh butcher's sausage chunks instead of poultry, have had it w chicken or pheasant wrapped in bacon and would recommend. but again, the idea of the original dish is to combine some regional pantry items with game (or, storebought chicken, if we must), so swapping ingredients in/out as you see fit is fine and should work. i am just confused w the recipe calling for a more expensive rice, but a cheap breakfast sausage, and i'm probably missing the point of what you're trying to do.

          it does not sound like you are using wild rice, but johnson cultivar non-shattering paddy-cultivated "wild rice" if you are expecting chewy/tough result and poor popping after 20 mins+. if this is what you have on hand, this casserole is a good way to use it up, but real wild rice is a treat and would elevate the final dish if you can get some sometime. but that is my own personal crusade, of course ;-P

          i would also probably up the amount of mushrooms (personal preference) or feel free to use mixed wild mushrooms if you have those around. the boneless chx breast is not a great ingredient for this dish, yet folks seem to love to use it and boneless skinless is the default in most printed (and sanitized) recipes. i would poach it very briefly, just to where you can cut it (undercook it) in stock. the chicken will finish cooking during the baking step, hopefully not drying out. again, a more rustic version of the dish, preferable to my taste, would have whole pheasant breasts or chicken legs wrapped in bacon, simply nestled into the top of the rice mixture, and baked until done. i will just throw that out there for your consideration :)

          i would reserve the toasted almonds and scatter them on top of the casserole as you remove it from the oven, just before serving. otherwise they will probably burn and won't be the nice texture contrast you're looking for.

          4 Replies
          1. re: soupkitten

            Your reply was exceedingly helpful. The red onion, in answer to your question, was just what the original (base) recipe called for. Ditto for the arborio rice. I'm not confident enough in my culinary abilities to sub ingredients like that which could be key. The addition of the sausage was my concept, or more of a morph of several recipes I have used. But I like the idea of the butcher's sausage. We have a wonderful butcher not too far away. Maybe a nice italian sausage?

            And thanks for the tip about under cooking the chicken. That would alleviate my concern that it would dry out. Several of my guests are kids who are averse to chicken on the bone, which is why the boneless chicken. But I could use thighs. And I will definitely toast the almonds, but add them after cooking.

            Again, thanks so, so much!

            1. re: jillfiredup

              Soupkitten pretty much nailed it. I just have a few additional offhand suggestions you can mull over.

              If you've ever made a confit of chicken, this would be a fine place to use it. Duck legs are traditional, but it works just fine with chicken legs or thighs as well. Alternatively, if you do use thighs, you can reconsider your initial plan to grill them - a little slow so as not to overcook and get a nice smoky flavor in the mix.

              I agree that while breakfast sausage would be inoffensive in this recipe, it doesn't quite have the character to make the dish pop. A big part of making a recipe like this taste amazing is getting the different components to stand out in the dish without taking over. Even though it's sort of mixing cultures, I'm thinking some fresh linguica sausage would work well (if you can find it).

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  oh yeah--confit would be brilliant, for sure. great idea.

            2. Instead of breakfast sausage, I would use Italian sausage. You can use sweet or hot according to your taste.

              Personally, I would use regular rice instead of arborrio and wild rice. I'm just not a big fan of wild rice. Rather than the hassle of using the arborrio rice, I would use white long grained rice. Why cook it like a risotto when it is gonna end up in a casserole dish?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Hank Hanover

                Thanks so much! I am going with an italian sausage from a nearby butcher.