It all started innocently. Hikers climbed to Party Rock on the mountain behind our home on November 5th. Neighbors heard young people hooting upon arriving at the pinnacle. Shortly thereafter smoke started billowing down the mountain. It was just a small fire. The next day helicopters starting buzzing our house. The fire had spread and they were scooping water from the lake and transporting it to the top of the mountain and dumping it on the blaze.
Notice the helicopter in this photo.
We were out on the lake when all of this was happening. The helicopter is coming in for another scoop of water in this picture. We thought it would be under control in no time.
It was not to be. The fire went from a few acres to over 4000 acres over the next week. Winds had picked up and the fire spread both east and west along the ridge line. Evacuations were ordered. We were told to leave. What do you take when told to evacuate? It was a harrowing experience. We gathered clothes, medications, files, paintings, family photos and David’s favorite wine collection in our two cars and left with our dog Daisy.
We went a few miles across the lake to The Lake Lure Inn and Spa. They were accepting refugees from our side of the lake and had reduced the rate to well below half of what they would normally charge. We spent three days here with our neighbors and eventual friends. The only silver lining in this story is how wonderful it was to meet and spend time with our neighbors.
We had communal meals in the Moose and Goose Lounge every night while we were there. Everyone was displaced and worried, but we managed to make the best of it.
On the fourth day of the evacuation David and I moved to a cabin owned by good friends Tom and Diana. They live out of the state so the cabin was available. It was just the respite that we needed. I was able to cook a few meals; spaghetti and this soup. We relaxed with good books and the stillness of the isolated woods surrounding us. The evacuation notice was lifted the next day and we returned home. With over 700 firefighters battling the blazes, our small area was declared safe. Our air quality is not great but our home is safe. We are thankful. The fire may burn for another few weeks, but with the dedicated fire crews we feel that we will get through this.
So . . . I am back in my kitchen. As part of the blog posts that I promised on Thanksgiving side dishes, I made this Broccoli Wild Rice Casserole. The recipe comes from the Pioneer Woman who can be relied upon to offer great recipes. There are several steps involved in making this, but it all comes together easily and can be prepared ahead of time. Just slip it into the oven an hour before your meal. It has lots of broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, celery and wild rice with a thickened sauce of chicken broth and cream.
Thanksgiving this year brings much more to be thankful for than I have ever expected.
BROCCOLI WILD RICE CASSEROLE (Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond)
I halved this recipe for just the two of us, except for the carrots and celery. Recipe as written is for the full amount.
2 cups uncooked wild rice
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock, plus more if needed for thinning
3 heads broccoli, cut into small florets
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 pound white button or cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Add the wild rice to a medium saucepan with 5 cups of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook until the rice has just started to break open and is slightly tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice water bath. Blanch the broccoli by throwing the florets into the boiling water until bright green and still slightly crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Immediately drain the broccoli and plunge it into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Remove it from the ice water and set aside.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, then melt 6 tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid begins to evaporate, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables are soft and the mixture begins to turn darker in color, 3 to 4 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour on the vegetables, stir to incorporate it and cook for about a minute. Pour in the remaining 3 cups of broth and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and allow it to thicken, about 3 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Let the mixture cook until it thickens. Add the salt and pepper, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix together the cooked rice and broccoli and tip into a 2-quart baking dish. Using a ladle, scoop out the vegetable/broth mixture and spoon it evenly all over the top, totally covering the surface with the vegetables.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then pour it into a separate bowl with the panko breadcrumbs. Toss the mixture together to coat the breadcrumbs in butter, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs all over the top of the casserole.
Cover with foil and bake the casserole for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until golden brown on top, another 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the parsley after you remove it from the oven.