What to CookSouthern

Green Rice: A Casserole for Spring

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If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.

Today: Stuff a few bunches of alliums into a cheesy rice pie, and call it spring.

Green Rice Casserole on Food52

Despite spring's excitement, despite the marquees we construct for asparagus and the shrines we build around artichokes -- how fitting, that spring's first crops lead with the alphabet's first letter -- I am quite boring this time of year.

At home, I smear radishes with butter; I pile up mustard greens doused with plain-Jane vinaigrettes; I stir the few ramps I can afford into an eggy dinner. I apply chives, as if with a snowblower, to everything. 

For excitement, I look elsewhere -- to the chefs that tuck plump morels into pasta dishes or braise artichokes in French quantities of fat. Or, the cheaper option: I pester my friends for suggestions. 

Recently I asked Perry, a close family friend, beekeeping hobbyist, and badass home cook, for spring vegetable inspiration. Green rice! she swiftly answered, with plenty of spring onions and herbs!

Green Rice Recipe on Food52

I pictured a pilaf-like bowl, grains of rice perched atop leaves of spring's perkiest herbs, with rings of scallions scattered about like Lilliputian crowns. She mentioned something, too, about eggs and cheese, but I forgot it until the next email arrived, carrying an explanation of how to make it.

"This is my grandmother's recipe," she began, "so get ready for lots of butter!"

A side note: Perry was raised in Alabama, a fact still suggested by the lilt of her voice and her killer pecan pie. She was the one, I believe, who taught me to save bacon fat in an aluminum can next to the stove. This year, she sent me grits for my birthday; in her honor, I buried them in cheese.

To make Perry's grandmother's green rice, you will need: at least half a stick of butter, two cups of shredded cheese, a cup or so of milk, and no plans to shimmy yourself into a string bikini any time soon. You will also need some leftover rice, as many spring alliums as you can find, and a fistful of parsley.

Green Rice Recipe on Food52

Yes, this is the sort of thing -- like cornbread, or mac and cheese -- that southerners consider a vegetable, bless their hearts. But it is also a perfect stage for the sweet, biting alliums of spring: in a pool of butter, they soften, then start to crisp; they punctuate dairy and starch, subtle dashes on a creamy white canvas. The parsley -- your second serving of vegetables here, if you're keeping count -- rescues everything from a monochromatic fate.

Baked in a pie plate and pulled from the oven when golden, this tastes like a young spring dish that hasn't forgotten winter's cream. It's like a less-heavy quiche, if its crust were made of fluffy white rice and swallowed up by its filling. It comforts without turning you comatose, and it's perfect cold: for breakfast the next morning, or as stolen forkfuls in the middle of the night.

There has never been a better excuse to eat your greens.

Green Rice Recipe on Food52

Perry's Green Rice

Serves 8 to 10

Half a stick of butter, plus more for greasing the pan
2 to 3 bunches of spring onions sliced into rings, green parts reserved
2 cups cooked white rice (or more, if you have it)
2 to 3 eggs, depending on how big they are and how much rice you have, beaten with a fork
1 to 1 1/2 cup milk
2 cups grated sharp cheese, like cheddar
1 cup chopped parsley, tightly packed (or mustard greens, etc.)
Salt and pepper, to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Eric Moran

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Pie, Egg, Herb, Onion, Parsley, Rice, Spring, Weeknight Cooking, Vegetarian, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Everyday Cooking