Mushroom and wild rice casserole (4-6 servings)

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Today was a rare lazy Sunday where I finished my work early enough to mess around with a time-consuming recipe.  This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's glorious.  Earlier in the week, I stopped by my parents' house shortly after my mom had taken a chicken and wild rice casserole out of the oven; in my meat-eating past, this creamy, comforting dish was one of my favorites (except for the time she snuck liver into it).  I checked online and found a Vegetarian Times recipe that seemed quite similar, so I decided to test it out today.  I've said before that I miss the layered, multi-textured experience of digging into a hearty meat-laden casserole, even though I don't miss the meat itself.  It's tough to find satisfying vegetarian casseroles, I've found, but the one I made tonight is well on its way to being a winner.  I'd make a few small changes next time, but I'll get to that after the recipe.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice-brown rice mixture (I just used 1/4 cup of each from separate packages)
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb (16 oz) white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup creamy mushroom soup (see note below)
  • 6 oz (2 cups) non-meat chicken-style chunks, such as Quorn or Morningstar (or make your own -- see note below)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp dry breadcrumbs

Steps:

  1. Bring 1 1/4 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add in the rice, reduce heat to low, and simmer with the lid on for 30-40 minutes, or until the rice is tender.  (I did this a few hours before I was ready to cook and just stuck it in the fridge until dinnertime.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add in the celery, onion, and garlic, and cook, stirring often, for 5-6 minutes, or until the onion starts to get soft.
  4. Add the mushrooms to the skillet, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms start to brown.  Season with pepper and a pinch of salt.
  5. Stir in the mushroom soup; remove from heat.  Mix in the "chicken" chunks, rice, and sour cream, and spoon the mixture into a 2-qt casserole dish.  Sprinkle the top of the casserole with breadcrumbs and bake 25-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center is bubbly.

A note about the mushroom soup: The original recipe suggests using Imagine brand creamy portobello soup, but I used Progresso Creamy Mushroom.  The recipe seems to be saying to not use cream of mushroom soup, although I'd think that if you added water to condensed cream of mushroom soup and measured out a cup of it, you'd be okay.  It seemed sort of weird to use a cup of soup from an 18-oz can, but I'll just eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

A note about the "chicken" chunks: I went to the grocery store today with the intention of picking up some Morningstar Meal Starters, but I couldn't find any.  (Oh, Oregon Dairy, you stock two dozen flavors of baked oatmeal yet so few vegetarian staples...)  I decided to make my own, based on the success of my crispy tofu wraps the other week.  I brought a brick of firm tofu, sliced it into eight even pieces, and pressed them between a towel to drain out some of the moisture.  Then, I tore the slices into bite-sized chunks and marinated them for about an hour in this Allrecipes marinade.  Then I drained them and browned them in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Then I let them cool and added the whole thing (about twice what the original recipe calls for) into the casserole.  This was definitely a lot of work, but as I said, it was a rare carefree Sunday!

Next time I would brown the tofu a bit longer to make it firmer.  I might add another 1/4 cup of rice too, as what was there got lost among all the mushrooms and tofu.  This recipe was almost perfect though!