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Merguez and Apple Wild Rice Pilaf

Lamb Merguez, Mushroom, Thyme and Apple Wild Rice Pilaf

There is something about wild rice pilaf that is so comforting to me. Winter. Cozy. Comfort. Food. Yes, the kind that is perfect for those chilly winter days, one that screams comfort food. Maybe it’s because, when I was a kid wild rice was one of those things that always found its way to the dinner table. Meaning once again I am retreating to the kitchen, to cook up something comforting to balance out the gloom.

Lamb Merguez, Mushroom, and Apple Wild Rice PilafI absolutely love wild rice. One of my absolute favorite ways to use it is in a simple wild rice and chicken soup made with fresh thyme, parsley root and thin slices of crunchy carrots. So easy, so good. But not everyone loves rice the way I do. Have you ever noticed that there are people who really love potatoes and others that are really into rice and other toasty, nutty, earthy tasting grains? Not that I don’t like a good spud now and again, but I’m definitely with rice & co.

So my fellow rice lovers, here is a wild rice pilaf simmered in chicken broth and natural cloudy apple juice. One that’s riddled with sweet dried cranberries, apples, spicy lamb sausage and wild mushrooms. It is full of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors that compliment the rich, nutty flavor of natural long grain and wild rice. It’s the perfect side dish for any holiday and easy enough for everyday!

Be sure to pick up a truly authentic lamb Merguez that is all-natural, pork-free and sustainably sourced. Your local butcher may have their own recipe, so be sure to ask for a product that is made from 100% lamb. I also recommend buying organic dried cranberries that are sweetened naturally with apple juice. There are also those sweetened with pineapple juice, but for the best flavor, be sure to avoid the types full of artificial sweeteners.

Lamb Merguez and Apple Wild Rice Pilaf

Merguez and Apple Wild Rice Pilaf
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup uncooked natural long-grain and wild rice blend (I use a 80/20 blend) (ca. 135 g)
2 cups chicken broth (500 ml)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 lamb merguez sausages (preferably organic), coarsely chopped (ca. 250 g)
2 small shallots, diced
200 g assorted wild mushrooms (such as cremini and shiitake), cleaned, stemmed and sliced
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used Braeburn, but Granny Smith are also good)
1/2 cup organic cloudy apple juice (125 ml)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons dried organic cranberries, roughly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 a lemon

METHOD:
1. Since rice blends can vary, cook the rice according to the package directions, using the broth rather than water. Depending on the type, cooking time can vary — cook until the texture is tender but still slightly chewy (al dente).

My method is as follows: Add the wild rice into a medium saucepan with the chicken broth. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook the rice until it is slightly tender, about 35 to 40 minutes Use a fork to fluff up the rice once it is done. Set it aside.

2. Start preparing the rest of the dish about 20 minutes before the rice is finished cooking.

3. Heat a large skillet with a little oil over medium-high heat. Add the Merguez sausage and shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the sausage starts to brown a little. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms become slightly tender and start to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped apples, thyme and apple juice and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and allow to simmer for 12-15 minutes, until apples are semi-soft.

4. Transfer the cooked rice to the skillet with the sausage and apple. Add the cranberries and stir to combine, season with more salt and pepper, as desired. Drizzle with lemon juice. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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