Well, what do you do when it's nearly dinner time and you discover you forgot to buy potatoes? Or, you don't have time to peel potatoes? Or, you have potatoes but they have gone bad in the pantry?
Why not make rice? When my mother had big family dinners, she had about the same menu every time. All the things we liked. And it always included "brown rice." (Not to be confused with actual brown rice—as in the unmilled kind where it says brown rice on the box.) This is sometimes called "consomme rice." And my aunt called it "mock wild rice." This Southern recipe refers to the color of the rice in the finished dish.
We needed real food last night. Daddy-O worked hard yesterday, fixing fences that were smashed by falling trees in the strong storm that rushed through here on Monday. Big trees down in lots of places. The neighbor's barn is mostly gone. But we were lucky. We just had fence damage. Meatloaf, rice and vegetables sounded like comfort food. The meatloaf was in the freezer, so it was an easy dinner for me to make.
The old recipe that my mother and my aunt used still shows up at nearly every covered dish dinner. And it is a favorite. But it has a WHOLE stick of butter in it and I just can't do that anymore.
Here is my Aunt Bibby's recipe:
MOCK WILD RICE
1 stick butter or margarine
2 cans Campbell's beef consomme (or 1 can beef bouillon + 1 can water)
1 cup long-grain white rice
Melt butter in skillet. Add rice. Slowly brown the rice, stirring often. Put into a 2-qt baking dish. Stir in consomme. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. May add can of mushroom pieces, if desired.
(I'll confess I usually skipped the brown-the-rice-in-the-butter step. I just melted the butter in the baking dish, added the rice and consomme and baked.)
Years ago, with thoughts of leaving out the butter and cooking it quicker, I changed it up. I cook it on the stovetop now. This is the my newer recipe:
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 can Campbell's beef consomme, plus water to equal 2 cups liquid
pat of butter (optional)
Bring consomme and water to a boil in saucepan. Stir in rice. Cover and reduce heat. Cook for 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving.
This is just the cooking directions on the package of rice, but instead of 2 cups of water, I used the can of consomme plus water for my 2 cups of liquid. I've done this for years now. Most times I use no butter at all, but truthfully, a pat of butter would be a nice addition.
At the knitting retreat last week, there was much discussion about "southern food." I forget that we do things differently. These ladies at the retreat were from all over the country. Someone tasted sweet potato souffle one night and said it was good but she thought it was dessert. "Like pumpkin pie without the crust," she said. No m'am. Here, it's a vegetable.
The next night we had macaroni and cheese, which can be a main dish in other places. But for us? It still can fall into the "vegetable" category, like this brown rice. In a "meat & three" restaurant around here (that's one where you choose a meat and three vegetables from the list on the menu) all of these side dishes are typically referred to as "vegetables."
It's the same logic that defines a jello-fruit mixture as "salad." Congealed salad to be exact. These also can get close to dessert when they contain Cool Whip, but we still call it "salad.' There are a hundred versions of congealed salads. And one or two of those will always be on the table at a covered dish dinner.
The knitting ladies also got into a discussion about what you call a "covered dish dinner" and what you call a "casserole." Pot luck? Hot dish? In your part of the country, what do you say for these things?