It's Improv time again!
The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients. The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.
This month's assigned ingredients were pork and rice. So many options! I actually already have several pork and rice dishes on my blog: Baked Pork Chops with Brown Rice, Coconut Galangal Pork Fried Rice, Sausage, Spinach, and Brown Rice Skillet, and Smoked Sausage, Peas, and Rice Skillet, Pork and rice is a great combo! I searched my pins on Pinterest for something new to try and was overwhelmed by the number of pins I had that would work.
I settled on soup. I was going to make a slow cooker creamy sausage and wild rice soup. But it was one of those times when you set out to create one thing, and end up with something completely different! My intention was to cook wild rice, mushrooms, and seasonings in beef broth, with a little gravy mix for thickening, then when the rice was tender, add sausage and some heavy cream, and more broth if necessary to make it a cozy winter soup. But when I checked on the rice to see if it was done, it was not only done, but it was amazing! The broth and gravy had thickened up just perfectly for a really yummy rice dish. I simply could not imagine watering it down to make it into a soup! It was not yet time for dinner, so I added the sausage and turned the slow cooker down to warm until dinnertime. The funny thing is, I hadn't even intended to serve this for dinner that night; I was making it a day ahead so I could get some good pics of it at lunchtime the next day, then we would eat it for dinner. But after smelling it cook all afternoon, and seeing how amazing it tasted, I couldn't resist eating it that same night. It worked out well because I had some unexpected errands to run right before dinner that night, so it was awesome to have dinner ready when I got home. (The meal I originally planned for that night was easily switched to the next night.)
Slow Cooker Sausage and Wild Rice Pot
32 oz. reduced sodium beef broth
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup wild rice blend (I used Lundberg Wild Blend)
1 tsp dried onion flakes (I used Penzey's toasted)
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried oregano
1 (.87 oz) packet brown gravy mix
2 tsp flour
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
Place beef broth, mushrooms, rice, onion flakes, bay leaf, and oregano in a 3 qt. slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the gravy mix and flour. Add to slow cooker, using a whisk to combine it with the beef broth. Set slow cooker to high and cook for 3 hours.
Remove bay leaf. Brown sausage in a medium skillet. Drain off grease and add sausage to slow cooker. Stir and serve warm.
Makes 6 servings.
I browned the sausage and added it at the end, but if it's more convenient for you, I'm sure you could add it to the slow cooker at the beginning so it all cooks together.
I served this with some roasted broccoli. While my four-year-old wasn't wild about this (pun intended), my husband and six-year-old raved about it. Lena actually said it was a "flavor sensation that is sweeping the nation!" She's a total goof. My husband devoured the leftovers for lunch the next day. He mentioned that it had great "umami". He watches too many food shows with me!
This is just such perfect wintertime comfort food. I have never had much luck cooking rice in the slow cooker before, so I was so excited that this turned out so perfectly. Cooking it on high probably had a lot to do with that. I'm not sure low would work with this recipe. It might make the rice mushy. I can already think of a couple of variations with this same method; chicken with chicken broth and chicken gravy mix immediately comes to mind. Can't wait to experiment some more!
Check out all the other great pork and rice recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with coffee and cream. Yum!