Thanksgiving Dinner: A Savory Alternative to Traditional Stuffing

Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times  |  Updated: July 13, 2017 10:36 IST

Thanksgiving Dinner: A Savory Alternative to Traditional Stuffing
Call this savory mix of wild rice, quinoa, mushrooms and greens a stuffing or a pilaf. It’s not meant to go inside a turkey, but it has the definitive herbal flavors I associate with and insist on when I make any kind of stuffing — sage mainly, but also thyme. Forever stored in my bank of taste memories, I have looked forward to them every Thanksgiving since my first forkful of the packaged stuffing of my youth.

Here, I cook wild rice and lightly toasted quinoa in an abundance of flavorful vegetarian porcini mushroom broth. The enriched broth that remains after the grains are cooked is even more robust. I use it to moisten the pilaf before heating it in the oven. Who needs turkey drippings?

There are also lots of moist, meaty fresh mushrooms here along with the dried porcinis, and plenty of crunchy celery, another ingredient I associate with stuffing.

But I also wanted to add color. Kale or chard are both great choices for that. If you’re trying to find a place for greens at the table but don’t want to deal with large amounts of them to stem and cook for a crowd, pilaf is a great place for them.

Because these grains are inherently nutty, and because I love the contrast of textures, I add walnuts to the mix, and walnut oil, too. The result is substantial and will satisfy everybody at the table: vegetarians and vegans, those who avoid gluten, and carnivores as well.

Wild Rice and Quinoa Stuffing

Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Yield: 10 servings


1 ounce (about 1 cup) dried porcini mushrooms

1 1/2 cups wild rice

Salt to taste

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 pound kale or Swiss chard leaves, washed and coarsely chopped (you should have about 8 cups leaves; no need to chop if using bagged greens)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for greasing baking dish

3 or 4 shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup chopped celery

1 pound fresh cremini or wild mushrooms, trimmed and quartered

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon walnut oil


1. Place dried porcinis in a bowl and cover with 2 quarts boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, place over a bowl and drain the porcinis. Gather them up in the cheesecloth and squeeze hard to extract all the liquid. Rinse in two changes water, squeeze out excess water over the strainer, chop coarsely and set aside.

2. Transfer mushroom broth to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add wild rice and salt to taste. When liquid returns to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer 35 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small dry skillet toast quinoa over medium until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. After rice has simmered for 35 minutes add toasted quinoa and continue to simmer another 12 minutes, until rice is tender and has begun to splay and the quinoa is just tender. Drain through a strainer set over a bowl and set aside. Reserve broth.

4. Return rice and quinoa to pot, cover pot with a dish towel and place lid over towel. Let sit for at least 10 minutes while you proceed with next step. (Recipe can be made through this step up to 3 days ahead.)

5. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add the greens in batches, stirring to wilt in the water left on their leaves after washing. Add a generous pinch of salt and continue to stir until all of the greens have wilted. This should only take a few minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water to cool. Take up handfuls of the greens and squeeze hard to get rid of excess water. Chop medium-fine and set aside. You should have 1 generous cup.

6. Rinse and dry pan, and heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3 minutes, and add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add celery. Cook, stirring often, until celery begins to soften, 2 to 3 minutes, and add fresh and rehydrated mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to sweat, about 3 minutes. Add white wine and cook, stirring, until wine has evaporated. Add salt to taste, thyme and sage, and continue to cook until mushrooms are tender and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.

7. Stir in cooked rice and quinoa, greens, parsley, walnuts and walnut oil. Stir together for a minute or two to blend well, and remove from heat.

8. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-1/2- to 3-quart baking dish. Transfer the pilaf to the baking dish and spread evenly. Moisten with 1/4 to 1/2 cup preserved broth from grains, and cover with foil. Warm in the oven for 20 minutes before serving.


Listen to the latest songs, only on

To add sausage, dice or crumble 2 to 4 links (6 to 12 ounces, to taste) Italian chicken or pork sausage and brown in a skillet for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir into grains when you add them to the pan along with the other ingredients and proceed with the recipe.

You can make this pilaf a day or two ahead and keep in the refrigerator. Do not moisten with the broth until just before warming in the oven.

Comments© 2015 New York Times News Service

For the latest food news, health tips and recipes, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and YouTube.