I had one favorite thing to eat when I was a kid. One dish I was loyal to above all else. I would request it when I was recovering from the flu, pneumonia, or strep throat. I would request it weeknights, weekends, and holidays. It was a simple dish, and one of four (maybe five) recipes my mom had in her entire culinary arsenal - we can get to some of the others in a future post. Above all, I favored her rice and mushroom casserole. As I remember it she combined rice, mushrooms (or creamy mushroom soup) and cheese in a casserole dish and baked it until it was creamy, melty, and golden at the edges. Easy enough. I made a healthier, from-scratch remix of this the other night using brown rice, sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and onions -all made creamy with a blend of cottage cheese and a bit of sour cream.
You can certainly use whatever cooked grains you like. I suspect this would be delicious with barley, wheat berries, quinoa, whole grain rices - or even a mix of grains. My mom used to hide all sorts of things in this casserole - I don't go the pork chop or chicken breast route any more (precooked!), but I can imagine pan-seared seitan strips being great. I can also imagine anything from chopped leafy greens, toasted nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, all as great as add-ins.
That being said, I love this simple version. The smell of it baking five minutes after I lifted the foil off the casserole took me right back to those times when I was a kid standing below the oven, high as I could get on my tip-toes, the heat from the oven door making my cheeks rosy, peering through the oven window at my favorite casserole. Mom, maybe it's my turn to make it for you?
Mushroom Casserole Recipe
Use any cooked grain you like. Feel free to use low-fat cottage cheese or sour cream if you prefer.
1/2 pound (8 ounces) brown mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 large onion, well chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
a bit of fresh tarragon, chopped
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Rub a medium-large baking dish with a bit of olive oil or butter and set aside. The pan I use is slightly smaller than a classic 9x13 baking dish - just grab for something in this ballpark.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat saute the mushrooms in a glug of olive oil sprinkled with a couple pinches of salt. Stir every minute or so until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have browned a bit. Add the onions and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes or until they are translucent. Stir in the garlic, cook for another minute and remove from heat. Add the rice to the skillet and stir until combined.
In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and salt.
Combine the rice mixture and cottage cheese mixture in a large bowl, stir until well combined and then turn out into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 2/3 of the Parmesan cheese, cover with foil and place in oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 or 30 minutes more or hot throughout and golden along the edges. Sprinkle with the chopped tarragon, and the remaining Parmesan and enjoy.
Serves about 8.