Nana Recipe Wednesday–Wild Rice Dressing

by Sarah on November 19, 2012

What?  It’s not Wednesday?  Sue me.

I was planning on putting this recipe up last Wednesday, you know, so you could make it on Thanksgiving if you wanted to…..but my computer ate my photo library.  Really!  I updated my iPhoto library thingy and POOF!  All my pictures were lost in there somewhere.  I’m not smart enough to figure out where they went, so it was off to my local Apple Store (i.e. HELL) to have the bright young genius figure it out.  Thankfully he was able to locate them in the bowels of my laptop.  That could’ve really sucked.

But what about those photos above?  The first is a vintage photo of Nana’s famous turkey with wild rice dressing.  And yes, we still make the same thing today.  The second?  It looks like Nana has been seated at the kid’s table.  It’s not the kid’s table–we always eat all together, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Nana DID sit at the kid’s table.  She probably would’ve liked it that way.

This dressing is not what most folks are used to, at least the folks I’ve ever been around.  “Wild rice dressing, what’s that?” is not an uncommon phrase when I tell them my favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving.  I would bet money that 99% of ‘Mericans eat that bread stuff.

I have only spent one holiday away from my family.  There was that bread stuff.  I didn’t really care for it.  I got in my car that very night and by the next morning I was eating wild rice dressing with gravy for breakfast.

Maybe it’s Nana’s Minnesota heritage that led her to make wild rice dressing. It is the “state grain” after all.  I don’t really know.  I don’t even know where this recipe came from.  Neither does my Auntie Anne.  But I CAN tell you that I don’t ever recall a Thanksgiving–and most Christmases too–that didn’t include a turkey with wild rice dressing.

People also usually look at me funny when I tell them that there’s clams in it.  I SWEAR it’s good.  Don’t look at me like that.

Otherwise, it’s mostly straightforward stuffing ingredients.  Onions, celery, parsley, garlic, some spices.

Minute brown rice.  HUH?  Yes, I know.  Minute rice.  Again:  I DON’T KNOW. If I ever make wild rice dressing at my house, away from actual Thanksgiving and relatives, I might try it with regular brown rice.  I like the stuff.  I’m sure Nana just used the quick stuff for convenience’s sake.  I mean really–she had a lot of things to make.

This dressing is also best cooked in the bird.  I know what Cook’s Illustrated and Alton Brown say about it.  Blah blah blah.  I’m not dead yet so I guess it’s ok.

In the end, it’s a pretty simple recipe.  Cook the rice(s).  Saute the vegetables, add the herbs and spices.  Add clams and clam juice.  Cook a bit more.  Stuff it inside your gigantic turkey.  There’s usually some extra that you’ll put in a casserole dish.  Roast the bird.  Put the casserole in the oven for the last half hour or so.

The end.  Wild rice nirvana.

I highly recommend putting some turkey gravy on it.

I also recommend making sure there’s some left over for breakfast the next morning.

Nana's Wild Rice Dressing


  • 3 cups wild rice
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cups celery, chopped finely
  • 6 small cans of minced clams (reserve 1 cup of clam juice)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp rosemary (Nana used dry, but we've switched to fresh)
  • 2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 2 tsp curry (we usually go a little heavier on curry)
  • Salt to taste


  • Prepare turkey in roasting pan on rack or however you wish to do it.
  • Wash and boil the wild rice in a covered pot.
  • In a separate pot, cook the brown rice.
  • In a large skillet, melt butter (Nana says "the size of a large egg" (ha ha). Saute the garlic, onions, and celery until tender. Season vegetables with a little salt. Add the drained clams and cook one minute, stirring constantly.
  • Combine skillet mixture and rice.
  • Add the clam juice, parsley, rosemary, pepper and curry.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Mix well and stuff bird. With remaining dressing, place in a buttered casserole.
  • Roast bird.
  • Put casserole in the oven for remaining 20-30 minutes or until heated through.


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