For some folks, this season is about peace and good tidings. For others, it’s just about the presents. In my family, the holidays were, and still are, all about the food.

There are many items that must be on the table at my house, or it simply isn’t Christmas. Among these are the wild rice dressing, cornbread, grandma’s cranberries, and mom’s bourbon pound cake. Now that pound cake is a very closely guarded family recipe, but the other recipes are below.

Wild rice

Wild rice.Photo: WhitneyI would have never thought wild rice dressing could be improved upon until I discovered the magnificent flavors of real Manoomin, a traditional Native American “rice” that is hand-harvested and hand-parched in the Great Lakes region of Minnesota. If don’t you live in Minnesota, the real Manoomin can be ordered online from the White Earth Land Recovery Project, a group that works to restore native foods and traditions. It’s a bit more expensive than the industrialized “paddy rice” coming out of California, but it is worth every penny. The flavor is far richer, far more intense, and the nutritional value is far higher. Add to this the spiritual benefit of knowing you’re helping a community in need become more self-sufficient, and it becomes downright rewarding.

Kurt’s Mom’s Wild Rice Dressing

It’s easy enough to make this dish vegetarian (or vegan, in fact). Simply leave out the sausage, increase the mushrooms, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken stock and olive oil for the butter.

1 pound Manoomin wild rice, washed three times in cold water
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound pork sausage (I use homemade but any high quality breakfast sausage will do)
1/4 pound butter
2 portobello mushrooms, or about 10 crimini mushrooms, diced
1/2 onion, minced
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pinch fresh thyme


Boil rice in broth for 20 minutes.

Brown pork in butter until fully cooked. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes, then mix in rice and remaining broth. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then uncovered to desired consistency (I like it to get crunchy on top).

Serve immediately or store (it freezes well). Makes about 8 servings.