My mother made a version of this while I was growing up—though it was a mishmash of packaged Success rice mix and frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Sam’s Club, “baked” in the microwave. There’s a part of me that shudders when I think of it, but the combination of flavors and textures is pure comfort, so I decided to give it a makeover.
What to buy: Dried porcini mushrooms and Arborio rice can be found in gourmet markets and higher-end grocery stores. If you can’t find Arborio, any white rice will do.
1Heat the oven to 350°F. Place mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and set aside.
2Place wild rice in a small saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly ajar; reduce heat; and simmer until rice is almost completely cooked, about 18 to 20 minutes. (The rice will be chewy and swollen with a slightly burst-open appearance.) Drain in a colander and set aside.
3While the wild rice simmers, blot the chicken thighs and drumsticks dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken in three batches until golden brown (the chicken will not be fully cooked), about 5 minutes per side, and set aside. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the chicken fat from the pan.
4Using a fork, transfer the porcinis to a cutting board (be careful not to disturb the gritty sediment on the bottom of the bowl) and coarsely chop; set aside. Leaving the sediment behind, slowly pour 1/3 cup of the soaking liquid into a measuring cup and set aside. Discard the remaining liquid.
5Return the frying pan to the stove over medium heat and melt the butter. When it foams, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Stir to coat the onion with butter and cook until the onion has softened a bit, about 2 minutes, then stir in the celery and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened but still uncooked in the center, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6Stir in the Arborio rice, mixing well with a wooden spoon or spatula to coat each grain with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the outer layer of the rice becomes translucent and is just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it evaporates, about 1 minute. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms with their soaking liquid and stir until the liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.
7Stir in the cooked wild rice and the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is slightly thickened and the Arborio rice is about halfway cooked, about 5 minutes (the mixture will be very soupy). Stir in the thyme, cream, and sherry, then remove from heat. Taste and if necessary season with more salt and freshly ground black pepper.
8Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Place the chicken pieces over the mixture, nestling them close to each other so they will all fit in the dish.
9Bake the casserole until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid and the chicken is completely cooked, about 45 to 50 minutes. To serve, place a scoop of rice mixture on a serving plate and top with a drumstick and thigh.
Beverage pairing:La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, California. Chicken, mushrooms, and cream just beg for a good, cool-climate Chardonnay. This one garnishes the flavors in the dish with a touch of lemon and pear.