Casseroles in some form have been around for years and there has been a rebirth of sorts in their popularity. Juggling careers and family limit the time we have to prepare a home-cooked meal, and options you can cook while on the run provide a welcome break from our busy schedules.
My Mom had two versions of this casserole, one with chicken and this one, using pork chops. The chops are braised along with a nutty wild rice, sweet bell pepper and onion. The result is, flavor-infused pork chops and creamy wild rice all in a rich sauce.
The original recipe calls for baking this dish in the oven at 350 for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. There are times I need dinner cooking while I’m out and about, and the slow cooker saves the day. I have several slow cookers, since different sizes come in handy for holidays and entertaining. One of my favorites is from All-Clad that lets you brown in the insert then switch to the slow cook method.
I always use bone-in pork chops becuase they have such wonderful flavor. Make certain to rinse each chop carefully under cold water before you start cooking. The bones in pork can splinter while being trimmed by the butcher, leaving gritty pieces on the meat. You can use thinner cut pork chops if you prefer, just cut the cooking time back.
I’m also a big believer in brining, which great for pork, poultry, and seafood. Brining infuses great seasoning into the meat and keeps it from becoming dry. If you have the time, take this extra step. A recipe for brining is listed below. When the holiday season rolls around, keep an eye out for the brining blend sold at Williams-Sonoma. You can stock up – it keeps and it’s great to have in your pantry.
Pork Chops and Wild Rice
4-6 bone-in pork chops, about 1” thick
5 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
½ green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
1 cup wild rice
1 can cream of chicken soup (10.5 ounces)
1 can cream of celery soup (10. 5 ounces)
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2 cups ice cubes
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, kosher salt, brown sugar, dried rosemary, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the salt and sugar have completely dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes. Add the ice cubes and refrigerate until the liquid is cold.
Place a large food storage bag inside a pan or dish (in the event of a leak!) and carefully pour the brining liquid into the bag. Add the rinsed pork chops, seal the bag and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight.
Remove the pork chops from the brining liquid, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Sprinkle the chops with freshly cracked black pepper, but no need for salt if they’ve been brined.
Cook the bacon over medium heat until the fat has been rendered and the bacon is starting to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan sear the pork chops until golden on each side, remove and let rest.
Next cook the bell pepper and the onion until slightly soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add extra olive oil if needed.
Remove and set aside. Return the bacon to the pan with the wild rice, cooking for about 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the chicken stock with the soups. Whisk in the sage, parsley, sugar, kosher salt and black pepper. Combine the wild rice, bacon, stock mixture, bell pepper and onion in the slow cooker.
Place the pork chops in the rice mixture and cook on low for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the pork chops are tender. Check after about an hour of cooking, stirring the rice and adding extra chicken stock if needed.