Crispy Cheesy Baked Rice Casserole
In this very moment, I can’t think of any food more comforting than rice and cheese…
Or creamy buckwheat…
Why is it that our bodies suddenly start to crave grains when the temperature starts to fall?
It feels like that’s all I’ve been wanting to eat lately: grains, bread or creamy pasta!
I’m constantly dreaming of Cheesy Tortellini, Fettuccine Alfredo, Meaty Lasagna…
Or a crispy rice casserole, why not, complete with cheese, of course!
Cheese AND loads of other goodies too: I must have fused all of my cravings of the late into this one single dish.
I think that all the typical Fall flavors have been invited to join this committee… Seriously, check out the roster!
There’s Ms. Butternut Squash. A classic. I think I made her Head Secretary of the Fall Flavor Committee. Or maybe it was President Chief Officer.
Yeah, I think that was it.
Then we have Ms. Apple. She should be made Treasurer, ‘cuz she’s such a sweet little treasure…
In the chair right next to her is Ms. Birdy Turkey. Oh, now she has to be the Head Chief of Council, for sure!
Wait, is that even a title? Bah, who cares. I make the rules, so I say it is!
Then comes Mr. Rapini. Too often forgotten that little guy… he must be the Accountant. Such a shame, ‘cuz he adds so much depth and robustness to dishes with that very unique flavor of his! One of my favorites, that’s for sure. I sometimes cook a whole bunch and eat it all to myself, just like that! Shhh. Don’t tell anyone I said that. They’ll think I’m a freak!
And of course, we can’t forget the pillar of the group, the foundation, the king of the dish: chewy, nutty and, in this case, crispy: Mr. Brown Rice.
I did things a little differently with this casserole: instead of mixing the rice with the rest of the ingredients, I decided to make it into a crispy crust by cooking it first at high temperature in a cast iron skillet.
I then put everything randomly right on top of that crust and threw the whole thing in the oven until the cheese started to melt and bubble and do what it is that cheese does best: ooze!
The result was an incredibly satisfying, super tasty and so very comforting dish! I only wish that I’d gotten to eat it right next to a fire.
But, since I don’t have a fireplace, I had to do without.
Maybe that’s what my body needs… a fireplace. Then it wouldn’t be craving so much comforting food.
Or maybe it would only crave it even more!
Watch this space, I get the feeling that lasagna will be on the menu soon.
Beefy, meaty, cheesy lasagna.
Oh, and healthy, of course! 😉
- 600g turkey breast meat, cut into 1" chunks
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 2½ cups water
- ½ tsp Himalayan or fine sea salt
- ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 red apple, peel on, diced
- 250g acorn squash, cut into bite size pieces (about half a large squash)
- 200g rapini, stems removed (about half a bunch)
- 125g reduced fat mozzarella, grated
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add rice and bring back to the boil.
- Lower heat, cover and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until rice is tender and all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool, uncovered.
- While the rice is cooking, place the squash in a steaming basket and cook over slightly salted simmering water until fork tender but still firm.
- When your squash is cooked to your liking, transfer it to a bowl and place the rapini in the steaming basket (make sure there is still enough water). Cook the rapini for a minute or two, until it just starts to wilt. While rapini is cooking, prepare a large bowl with icy cold water. As soon as your rapini is done cooking, transfer it to this water bath to stop the cooking process and preserve its beautiful deep green color. Leave it in there for a minute or two, until really cold, then drain and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Chop coarsely and reserve.
- In a large non stick pan coated with cooking spray, cook the turkey pieces over medium high heat until nice and golden brown on all sides. Reserve.
- In that same pan, add the onion and celery and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant and vegetables start to color. Add that to to the rice, along with parsley, egg and black pepper. Mix well.
- Coat a cast-iron skillet with a little bit of olive oil or cooking spray and heat over high heat until very hot. Add rice mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes to form a nice crust at the bottom.
- While this is happening, randomly arrange turkey, squash, rapini and apples over the rice, alternating between ingredients.
- Top with grated mozzarella and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese turns golden and starts to bubble.