You don’t have to be ill to make chicken soup, but if by chance you are, this week’s Chicken-Vegetable Wild Rice Soup would certainly encourage healing or at least comfort until you were well once more. I’m grateful to be healthy currently (THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! Hope you are, too.) and have not been in dire need of chicken soup for medicinal purposes. I was, however, looking for a veggie-heavy broth featuring whole grains or beans and lean poultry or fish to fortify us for playing pinochle. A pinochle lunch, so to speak. So what’s a pinochle lunch? It’s a simple, healthful meal we prepare to eat together before we play cards most of the afternoon. I mean, we need stamina, energy, and awareness — not stupor from food that sits like a box of rocks in our bellies. The four of us, and we meet once or twice per month, must have our wits about us as we are pinochle newbies and hence have trouble remembering things like a 10 is higher than a king. How could that be?? Who made these rules?? There is also usually a little wine at this meal, you see. Great for digestion and singing a little ditty or two but questionable in its help for our memories, which are sorely needed for pinochle.
After the play, both teams count the cards from the tricks they've pulled in for counters: Aces, 10s and Kings. Each counter card is worth one point. Queens, Jacks and 9s count nothing. (F.G. Bradley's)
And that’s only the start of pinochle oddities. So brain food (tons of protein and high-quality carbs with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and water) is totally on the table each time. And while the Chicken-Vegetable Wild Rice Soup certainly fit the bill, it didn’t stop me from forgetting how to use the shuffle machine.
When time permits, do a search on wild rice via google and perhaps even on my blog. I’m crazy about the stuff, having lived in Minnesota a couple of times over the years. (And, why yes, I did graduate music work at The University of St. Thomas.) The precious grass — and it is a whole grain grass rather than a literal rice — also grows in other northern midwest states. Wild rice, as you’ll soon see if you make this, is a fine soup ingredient but also (scroll down for examples) is also perfect for stuffings and dressings, casseroles, salads, or a plethora of other yummy dishes.
Wild rice (Zizania aquatica or Zizania palustris), called manoomin in the Ojibwe language, has been a staple food for Minnesota’s Indians for centuries. It was adopted as the official state grain in 1977. It is an aquatic grass not related to common rice. Early in the summer, the plants bloom with tiny maroon and gold flowers, and by late summer, their seeds mature into dark brown kernels. Domestic cultivation and combine harvesting of wild rice are relatively recent developments; wild rice is commercially produced as a field crop on about 20,000 acres in Minnesota. For many years, basically all of the wild rice produced in the world came from Minnesota, and most still does. Wild rice often is harvested from lakes in a traditional way, from canoes; people interested in harvesting wild rice in Minnesota must purchase a wild ricing license, similar to a fishing or hunting license. Wild rice grows naturally in the shallow waters of lakes in central and northern Minnesota; the wild rice pictured here, in bloom, was growing in the Island River, near Isabella. (MN SOS)
While wild rice may be hard to find in your local grocery (I recently sourced some from Safeway), it’s easy to order online or even from amazon. You may have to search a little to find wild rice hand-harvested by native Americans but the search is worth it. The price is dear; I’ll give you that but it’s a wonderful and healthful American food. Also keep in mind that this whole grain triples in volume when combined with water and cooked. A little goes a long way and its so healthy, it’s labeled “nutrient dense.” Cool for me and cool for you.
You don’t have to pick up two decks of cards and play pinochle to eat my soup but you could, just for grins and giggles, when you try this:
chicken-vegetable wild rice soup
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil or more as needed
- 5-6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 1/2 cups diced onions
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup sliced carrots
- Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- 1 bay leaf
- Large handful minced fresh parsley — plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 quart water– or more as needed to keep soup brothy
- 1 cup EACH peeled and diced butternut squash, sliced parsnips, and diced turnip
- Add wild rice to a medium bowl and cover with water. Swish well with hands to clean; drain. Repeat two more times. Set drained rice aside.
- In a large soup pot, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Brown chicken pieces on both sides in 2-3 batches, removing to a bowl and setting aside. (They needn’t cook through.)
- To the hot pot, add onions, celery, carrots, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, a generous pinch (1/8 teaspoon) crushed red pepper, dried herbs, and fresh parsley. If needed, drizzle in a little more olive oil to prevent vegetables from sticking. Let cook 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until vegetables are softened. Pour in white wine and let simmer a few minutes or until the wine is absorbed. Add garlic and reserved browned chicken pieces; stir and cook another minute or two.
- Pour in broth and water, raise heat, cover, and bring to a boil. When boiling, add butternut squash, parsnips, turnips and the clean, drained wild rice. Lower heat to a simmer, and cook until vegetables and rice are tender (rice will begin to split at edges) –approximately 45 minutes. If soup becomes too thick, add a cup or two of water. It should remain quite brothy all through cooking to insure evenly cooked rice and veggies. Taste, re-season, and serve hot garnished with reserved fresh parsley.Store well-covered for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or up to 4 months in the freezer.
TIP: Why is there a range of liquids given for soups? The longer you cook soup, the less brothy or thicker the soup becomes as the liquids evaporate. For some soups, that’s perfect. For a wild rice soup, we want lots of broth as the rice expands and expands much like noodles. Because a recipe writer has little idea of the strength of your burners (low on your stove might be different than mine) or how long you’ll simmer soup– there is often a caution to add more liquids as needed or there is a range given for the amount of liquids. If your soup is done quickly, you may not need more water/broth; if you cook it a lot longer, you could use quite a bit more. And by the way…. when you add additional water/broth broth to a pot of soup (or when you thaw soup after freezing), you will need to increase or add to the seasonings. That will include salt, pepper, hot sauce, and even herbs sometimes. Never stop tasting and adjusting seasonings until it’s time to sit down at the table. And maybe not even then.
CHANGE IT UP: Use brown rice in place of wild rice. Skip the wine; use water or broth. As noted, swap in the veggies you like best or have on hand. If you have cooked vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower, add them only for the last few minutes to heat through. You might use all onions, carrots, and celery — skipping the butternut squash, parsnips, and turnips. (Increase the carrots to 1 cup and the celery to 2 cups.) Fennel could replace celery. A mixture of basil and oregano can sub for the Herbes de Provence. Diced or ground turkey would work instead of the diced chicken thighs. While I left it out for caloric and health reasons, you could add a cup or two of half and half at the end of the cooking time. Make sure the soup is not at a boil, but merely at a simmer when you add the cream. Stir and let the soup heat through before serving. Like more heat? Add hot sauce at the table. Want the traditional sherry? Serve a little pitcher of this fortified wine from Spain at the table and let each diner drizzle a bit into their bowl.
(Minnesota) Chicken Wild Rice Soup Recipe/ALLRECIPES (traditional version with mushrooms, sherry, and half and half)
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LIFE GOES ON:
below: Coming today to a neighborhood where I live. Love it. You know I’m making chili and cornbread.
Our Cork Play Wine Group dinner at friends Jerome’s and Chris’ house last weekend included a gorgeous salmon-many ways appetizer from Pam, luscious veggies from Jill and Chris, and (see below) these two stunning savory pies from stellar baker Jerome Carter — elk at left and pheasant at right. Game was provided from Pam’s husband, our personal hunter, Lee Lehmkuhl. WOW! Talk about full and blowing the diet. For the bakers on the blog, these pies were made with hot water dough and baked free form — no pan used, just tied parchment paper.
What did I make? My dessert paled in comparison, but Melissa Clark’s Extra-Bittersweet Chocolate Pots de Creme (photo from a previous cooking time) were accompanied by my Raspberry Shortbread Sandwich Cookies.
Singing a spring-y song like, “Spring Will Be a Little Later this Year” and jumping up to the kitchen to stir up that chili, I’m glad you’re here with me keeping me company,
P.S. The fine lady singing this great tune is the wonderful, golden-voiced Miss Sarah Vaughan who crossed the river way too soon in 1990. Fun piece of info–my husband, a beautiful bass trombone player, once played with this great musician. He was at the beginning of his career and she was nearly at the end of hers. She was all she sounds like she was.