The Reader: Ilene Spector, Upperco, Maryland, food and travel journalist
The Recipe: Oyster and Wild Rice Casserole
The Story: Spector wanted to try the delicious casserole of wild rice layered with sautéed oysters when she saw a television culinary star prepare it. However, she knew the recipe’s liberal additions of cream and butter would not help her reach personal goals “to live longer and feel better.” She requested our Test Kitchens’ help to create a healthier version with the original’s indulgent taste and less saturated fat.
The Dilemma: Loaded with one cup half-and-half, a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, and more than two-thirds cup butter, this recipe packed a whopping 16 grams of fat (almost nine grams of artery-clogging saturated fat) and 227 calories into each serving. What’s more, several salty ingredients, including the soup and garlic salt, contributed to the nearly 700 milligrams of sodium per serving, or almost one-third the daily maximum amount recommended by the AHA for a 2,000-calorie diet.
The Solution: We decreased the half-and-half to one-half cup and added extra fat-free, less- sodium beef broth to provide enough liquid for the casserole. We also reduced the amount of butter to a mere three tablespoons. These changes shaved seven grams of fat (five grams saturated) and cut about 70 calories per serving. In addition, replacing the condensed soup with a reduced-fat, less-sodium version shaves one additional gram of fat and a few calories. More importantly, this modification also eliminates 68 milligrams of sodium per serving. Omitting the garlic salt cut another 40 milligrams of sodium per serving. To enhance flavor in the cream sauce, we added sautéed fresh shallots and garlic to the half-and-half. Lastly, a little fine sea salt replaced table salt. This sea salt has as much sodium as table salt, but its more complex flavor better suits the oysters.
The Feedback: “Everyone who tasted it loved it,” says Spector. She also notes that the dish is “pricey but worth it, especially for entertaining.” For the most luxurious effect, she recommends splurging on the larger, “select” oysters.
Before | After
Calories per serving
227 | 146
15.6g | 6.4g
Percent of total calories
61 percent | 39 percent