Late Summer Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Rice

The past few mornings at our house, it’s been about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius). Skies are smoky from California and Canada wildfires; windows are thus closed tightly. The garden is looking a bit wan and worn around the edges; flowers are fading and crabapples are ripening. There is snow on Pike’s Peak. Summer is short here and the growing season is sometimes…

…cut to the quick by a sudden August or September snowstorm that melts within hours of falling, but also puts an end to fragile blooms and tiny vegetables. You might remember that our tomatoes don’t go in until Memorial Day or early June. If they’re not ripe now or quite soon, they may never ripen!  Mine are green. The ones that the deer didn’t get, that is. (I did have some great orange cherry tomatoes from pots on the deck.) There are, no matter, many weeks of lovely weather ahead but summer–real summer with hottest heat–is over. Tomatoes need heat, my friends.

above: there’s nothing to do but share.

Yesterday, coming out of a bout of thankfully short-lived tummy trouble, I was ready for more than tea and toast, but not for much more.  I certainly, however, had the old rumbly in my tumbly and that was good news. A pot of chicken soup was exactly what the doctor ordered. Nothing heavy, no big fat noodles or starchy potatoes, and certainly a total absence of anything smacking of heat. Not only good for colds, chicken soup is an excellent remedy for other maladies, too–at least at my house, it is!

below: sautéing the vegetables and chicken together in the same pot I made broth

 I needed a gentle homemade broth and handfuls of my fragrant herbs along with all the well-cooked allium vegetables (onions, leeks, shallots, etc) I could gather. A bit of zucchini for color, vitamins, and texture along with diced dark chicken for long-lasting protein would turn the trick. Not much more except carrots and celery. Rice — regular old white rice, not brown or wild — would round out the pot, be eminently digestible, and give me that edge of energy I so badly wanted after two days with little solid food.

below: herbs from my garden

And it’s getting chilly at night, too, around Colorado; Dave and I were both grateful to have a warm bowlful at the end of the day.  As fall winds up and in, try this if you have a rumbly in your tumbly or save it to make for a friend who’s under the weather.  If your tummy has been just fine, you might want to add a bit more pepper or some hot sauce when you eat your Chicken…Soup with Rice:


8 servings

This soup uses both dried and fresh herbs–a boon for the late summer herb gardener.  If you’ve no fresh, I give dried substitutions, but do please add a big handful of chopped fresh parsley in with the rice. Use it for garnish as well. The variety of allium vegetables (onions, shallots, etc.) makes this soup something very special, summery, and extraordinarily fragrant, but if you’ve only onions and garlic in the kitchen, use 2 large onions and 2 large cloves of garlic for a soup that will still be happily tasty.

  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced into 1/2 – 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon each:  dried thyme, dill, and tarragon
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 large leek (white and light green parts only), sliced and diced
  • 2 each: sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces: medium peeled/trimmed carrots and trimmed celery stalks
  • 1 small parsnip, trimmed, peeled, and sliced thinly
  • 1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced thinly
  • 1 small, plump garlic clove:  minced or grated
  • 3 quarts homemade chicken broth (recipe below) or purchased low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup uncooked white rice*
  • 1 small or medium zucchini, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (can sub 1 1/2 teaspoons dried) plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon each: chopped fresh thyme and tarragon (can sub 1 1/2 teaspoons dried each) plus extra for garnish
  • Sliced scallions, for garnish

In a 10-quart soup pot, heat butter and oil over medium-high flame for a minute.  Add chicken and let cook two minutes or until beginning to brown.  Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Stir and add onion and shallot.  Let cook another minute or two; tip in leeks, carrots, celery, parsnip, and fennel. Cook, stirring 3 or 4 more minutes, adding garlic for the last minute. Pour in broth; bring to a boil. Add rice, zucchini, and fresh herbs.  Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let cook 20 minutes OR until rice and vegetables are tender. Don’t overcook. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with reserved fresh herbs and sliced scallions.

*Sub brown rice for white rice, but pre cook it for at least a half hour or even add it totally cooked at the end if you’ve a bowlful in your fridge.

HOMEMADE CHICKEN BROTH  makes about 3 quarts

I save chicken backs, wing tips, necks, and all of the giblets (heart, gizzard–use the liver for something else –I fry it up for the dog or save them for paté) in a large freezer bag, adding to it as I have more. When there’s a gallon bag full (2-3 chicken’s worth of extras), I make broth. Occasionally I’ll use a whole chicken, but that’s a rarity at my house. I also save ends of leeks, onions, parsnips, carrots, fennel tops, mushrooms, etc. in a separate freezer bag and use those in the broth. If you haven’t any saved bits and pieces, whole fresh vegetables will do, of course.  Don’t peel the onions, etc., just wash them thoroughly before adding to the pot.  Some people add white wine to their broth; I add wine to soup as I make it if I’m using it.

Cover the chicken pieces and giblets with about 4 quarts of water in a 10 or 12 quart pot. Your chicken bits and vegetables should be covered at least by a couple of inches and you still might need to add more water as it cooks.  Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt and a tablespoon of whole peppercorns. Toss in an onion, a stalk of celery including leaves, an unpeeled, untrimmed carrot, and a small sliced parsnip or 2-3 cups saved odds and ends of vegetables. (No cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, etc.)  Toss in a handful or two of unchopped fresh herbs:  I like parsley, fresh dill, rosemary, thyme, and mint. If you only have parsley, so be it; add a cup or so. Add a bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook 3 hours or more, skimming the foam off the top as needed.  Strain well through a fine mesh strainer into another pot, and let the broth cool a bit. Discard the chicken pieces and vegetables.* Taste and adjust seasonings. Carefully spoon off at least half of the fat off the top before using.  Don’t take it all off; it adds enormous flavor, color, and energy.  Let cool totally (or cool it in an ice water bath) and refrigerate up to 3 days if not using immediately. Freeze for 6 months.

*If you’d like, pull off the tender dark strands of chicken meat off the neck, being very careful to avoid the tiny neck bones, and use them in the soup or for a snack. For a stronger and quite tasty, but less clear soup, you can pick out the Capital T, Tender vegetables, purée them, and add them back into the broth.

{printable recipe}

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Above:  Alyce’s Chicken-Wild Rice Soup with Butternut Squash and Pecans

Above:  Alyce’s Fast Chicken and Tortellini Soup with Parmesan and Basil

DIET NEWS:  Low Carb? High Carb? Most recent 15-year study indicates long-term health and longer lives for people for whom 50% of their calories comes from carbs, which equates to 250 grams of carbs per day. In other words, it looks like we’re healthier with lower amounts of animal fat and high amounts of grains, vegetables, fruits, and fiber in general. In other words, do like Mom said, “Eat a balanced diet.” Read here.

I missed our granddaughter Piper’s 4th birthday as I didn’t want to share my tummy terrors. Luckily I had made oodles of cupcakes and froze them early in the week because by Saturday, I had no energy for cake making.

Dave (husband and chief sous chef) made the frosting, put the cake together, piped the frosting onto the cupcakes, put the simple unicorn cake together, and drove it to the party.  I married the right guy!! Luckily he and daughter Emily sent me lots of texts and photos.

Eat chicken soup for health, wealth, and happiness. Maybe a unicorn cupcake, too.


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