Yes, it's unconventional, but this wild rice dressing is rich, nutty, buttery, savory and wholly delicious, fit for any Thanksgiving table. Depending on the brand, wild rice absorbs varying quantities of liquid. If you have less than 1-1/2 cups of leftover cooking liquid, make up the difference with additional low-sodium chicken broth. We also provide two variations of the basic recipe. Serves 10 to 12
1. Cook wild rice: Bring broth, water, and bay leaf to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add wild rice, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Strain contents of pan through fine-mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup. Transfer wild rice to medium bowl; discard bay leaf. Reserve 1-1/2 cups cooking liquid.
2. Toast bread: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Pulse half of bread in food processor until pea-size pieces remain and transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining bread and another rimmed baking sheet. Bake bread crumbs until golden, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Cool completely, about 10 minutes.
3. Sauté aromatics: Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Cook onions and celery until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, sage, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in reserved cooking liquid, remove from heat, and cool 5 minutes.
4. Assemble and bake: Whisk cream, eggs, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Slowly whisk in warm broth mixture. Stir in wild rice and toasted bread crumbs and transfer to 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Melt remaining butter in now-empty skillet and drizzle evenly over dressing. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake on lower-middle rack until set, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove foil and let cool 15 minutes. Serve.
Make Ahead: Assembled dressing can be refrigerated in baking dish, covered, for 1 day. To finish, melt remaining butter, drizzle over dressing, and proceed with recipe, adding 20 minutes to baking time.
Test Kitchen Discovery: Harvesting Rice Water: We cook wild rice more like pasta than like traditional steamed rice, boiling the rice in extra water (and chicken broth) and then draining it. We then use the flavorful, starchy liquid to help the dressing cohere.
Dried Fruit and Nut Wild Rice Dressing
Prepare Wild Rice Dressing, adding 1-1/2 cups chopped dried apricots, cranberries, or cherries and 1-1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans with bread crumbs in step 4.
Leek and Mushroom Wild Rice Dressing
Prepare Wild Rice Dressing, replacing onions and celery with 4 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and sliced thin, and 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thin.