Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Do you ever have a day that is surprisingly productive? Yesterday was that type of day for me. I woke up early (for a Saturday), and completed a lot of chores that I’d been putting off far too long. I had my laundry and cleaning done by 11:00, and I was feeling pretty accomplished! I kept that momentum going and made a wonderful, cozy soup as a reward.
Chicken wild rice soup is one of my favorites, but I have surprisingly never made it myself. It is usually offered in the cafeteria where I work one day each week, but there is something about making it at home that, for me, is much more satisfying. Truth be told, however, I sometimes find homemade soups hard to master. The physical act of making soup is relatively easy, but I have a difficult time getting the seasonings right. They can be under salted or over peppered, it can be a real challenge. So this weekend I embarked on a quest (too dramatic?) to find a great recipe for my first venture into homemade chicken wild rice soup!
I consulted the wonderful site that is Pinterest, and found a couple different recipes that I thought looked good. I then promptly started making changes that could only improve (or horribly ruin) them. I was very pleased with the results.
Most recipes involve poaching the chicken in broth, whether on the stove top or in a slow cooker. I wanted to give the chicken flavor more depth, so I used my tried and true method for cooking chicken breasts. I use this foolproof technique that makes perfect chicken every time – Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat 1-2 tbps olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the chicken (usually with just salt and pepper, but you can add garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, etc.) and brown for 2-3 minutes on each side in the hot oil. You’re just looking to brown the chicken at this point – Brown = Flavor (but remember black = burned…). Once chicken is browned on both sides, bake in pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes. Let chicken rest for 10-15 minutes once they are done cooking, and you will have juicy, cooked through chicken for any dish!
Once the chicken was cooked, I took it out and let it rest and used the same dutch oven to cook the veggies (diced carrots, celery and onion – also known as a mirepoix – along with some garlic) and then threw in some poultry seasoning. I let that all simmer with some chicken broth while I diced the chicken. Once the vegetables were tender, I added the chicken and a cooked wild rice blend (it’s a mix of wild rice and brown rice).
To thicken the soup I made a roux of equal parts butter and flour that is cooked together for a couple of minutes which is then combined with milk. Cooking the flour with melted butter takes away the raw flour taste, and mixing it with milk helps prevent clumping in the soup.
Once the roux is mixed into the soup, you simmer for about 5 minutes and then traditionally add cream or half-and-half. I took a detour at this point, and I hope you’ll go with me on this one. Instead of heavy cream, I added 8 oz of mascarpone cheese. It gives a nice mild, creamy flavor to the soup. To brighten up the flavors I finished the soup with the zest of half a lemon, which rounded out everything very well.