Tom Strini
Winter Warmers

Cold-weather cooking with top Milwaukee chefs

By - Nov 27th, 2010 04:00 am
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Jason Gorman dishes it out. All photos by Patti Wenzel.

Jason Gorman, award-winning chef of Dream Dance Steak in the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, invented a dish just for us when TCD asked him to contribute to our holiday cooking series: fabulous recipes from top Milwaukee chefs that anyone can make.

“I didn’t just want to pull something off our menu,” he said, as he plated his Baked Escarole Wild Rice for us in the Dream Dance kitchen. “I looked to the Menomonee River Valley for inspiration. Menomonee (menomin in woodland Indian language) means ‘wild rice field.'”

Gorman cooked the rice in the vegetable stock that they make at Dream Dance and is a basic building block of their cooking. You can make it, too, by boiling and then simmering for an hour scraps of onion, celery, carrots and tomatoes, in pretty much random combination and proportion. Gorman said that beef stock would work very well in this recipe as well.

“There are a lot of ways to approach it,” he said. “That’s what’s fun about savory cooking. You could make this with Uncle Ben’s wild rice and it would be fine. Or you could use dried cranberries instead of papaya.”

Cranberries would have been the more traditional and obvious choice. The papaya aligns with what Gorman’s philosophy for Dream Dance: New twists on traditional Wisconsin foods.

“When we settled on that idea,” he said, “we found our muse.”

In this pilaf, the bitterness of the escarole contrasts nicely with the sweet papaya, and the colors please the eye. I’ll follow the recipe below to the letter when I make this pilaf. But I will cook the wild rice ahead of time; Jason said that’s OK.

Baked Escarole Wild Rice Pilaf

by Chef Jason Gorman, exclusively for ThirdCoast Digest

Inspired by the Menomonee River Valley, which provided a natural, sustainable resource as long as as long as 12,000 years ago when Paleo-Indians hunted prehistoric animals, fished and harvested the valley’s abundant wild rice.

Yield: 6 servings

Wild rice takes longer to cook than pasta, but like pasta, the more clean, cold water in the pot, the better the result.


1 cup wild rice
½ cup white rice
½ cup dried papaya (chopped)
4 1/2 – cups water or vegetable stock
2 tbsp roasted garlic paste
1 – tsp. salt
½ cup small diced mire poix (celery, carrots, onion)
1 sprig thyme
2 cup escarole
¼ cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter


• Place rice in a wire strainer and rinse well with cold water. In a large pot place butter, mire poix, dried papaya, garlic paste, bay leaf, escarole, thyme and saute over a medium flame till vegetables are soft. Set aside.

• Combine rice with water and salt in a separate heavy saucepan. Heat to boiling. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 50 minutes until rice is tender. Remove cover. Drain rice. NOTE: After the first 30 minutes of cooking, check to see that the rice is not sticking to the pan. If necessary, add another 1/4 cup of water.

• Fluff rice with fork and combine with vegetable mixture. Place in a casserole dish, dust with parmesan cheese and place in oven for 4 to 6 minutes at 350 degrees till golden brown.

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