What pops in my head when it’s cold outside? THIS soup! The funny thing is that I’ve gotten lazy during my single days in So Cal and the past few years going to Panera to get their version…up until this past Christmas in CO with my husband’s family.  I grew up making Wild Rice Soup with chicken, ham, left over turkey from Thanksgiving…it is the epitome of comfort food to me. It is so creamy, so delicious, and so filling. I almost can’t eat it without dipping crusty, chewy french bread as an edible spoon. Whether I am eat it on its own or dipping bread, I CANNOT eat it WITHOUT my comfort food noises and repeating almost with every bite how yummy it is! This is serious comfort food.  I was out Day-After-Christmas-Sales shopping on my own–I’m an independent shopper which probably has to do with how focused I am and all my wheels turning creating different ideas ALL THE TIME.  I was getting hungry for lunch and being that it was colder than Vegas, I wanted some Chicken Wild Rice Soup and there was a Panera down the street a couple miles. I got there, and it wasn’t even the freaking day they have it available!!! What???!!?!!!??

 

 

So in a “hangry” huff, I spun on heel out the door, straight to the grocery store I passed on the way. I immediately got all the ingredients for MY soup, and I was gonna have a bowl one way or another. I didn’t care what my in-laws had planned, they could join me or not. This was happening. To expedite this mission, I picked up a rotisserie chicken in lieu of raw chicken breasts because the norm when I make this is to use a crack pot, set it and forget it, and then shred the chicken before diving in to enjoy a bowl. I did NOT have time for that. Homey was not messing around, and you do NOT want to get in my way when I am in this mode. Trust me. I was on a mission.

Not an hour later with travel time, and orienting myself with my mother-in-laws kitchen–and hallelujah she didn’t even bat an eye lash when I got home with groceries to make this soup–my husband, my father-in-law, and myself were deep in comfort food nirvana. Ain’t no one was talking! Umm, um, ummmm…that was so good. And you know what, it reminded me how much BETTER my soup is than the corporate soup-mill down the street…or not so down the street back in Vegas. Now don’t get me wrong, their soup is very good and I won’t hesitate to have a bowl if I am there on a day they have it. It was just the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back not having the soup THAT day…on top of the other times I went and it was either it was the wrong day to be up on the menu or they are already out of their day’s stock.

P.S. I like BIG chunks of vegetables. I like meaty pieces of chicken, or whatever meat I add. I like seeing the onions in my soup. I like having mushrooms and broccoli in my soup. Dang it, I just LOVE me some of MY custom, homemade soup, with leftovers at my beck and call the next few days…if it lasts that long because this is one of the dishes I make my husband actually LOVES left overs, never mind the two full bowls the day I make it–and he detests left overs. I, on the other hand, love left overs because I do not have to cook or clean up after so there is no delay to enjoy it.

Besides the fresh vegetables, spices, and meat, what makes this soup is the wild rice and the creaminess. Coming out west, I took for granted how easy it was to get wild rice in MN. Well, duh, the real wild stuff grows in the lakes and rivers of MN and Canada, eh, and the Native Minnesotan’s used to beat the plant to get the seeds while canoeing, in their canoes–I paid attention to my MN history and Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox lore. Yes, seeds. Wild Rice is not even rice. It is a seed, and much like quinoa, it is far less calorie dense than any rice, brown included, AND has a much higher mineral content. Win-win! Not only does it taste so good, add such a wonderful texture rice cannot add and doesn’t get mushy, but it has less calories and more nutrients. The key hack cooking with wild rice is to either soak it overnight, or using your crock pot to cook the wild rice before you add to your soup for a couple hours on high. Which every way is more convenient for you, make sure you have a generous margin of water above the line of the settled wild rice because it will soak up that water and expand. My preference is the crock pot method. You can also cook up a big batch, drain it, freeze in a zip-lock bag ready to use without this step. This is a very handy tip; it opens a ton of doors to amazing wild rice dishes.

The creaminess is achieved with cream, whole milk, or half-and-half, AND roux. What is a roux you say? It is your creamy soup’s best friend. It is a cooked mix of butter and flour in a 1:1 ratio or equal amounts. I always make the roux after sautéing and cooking the vegetables to al dente in the chicken stock, before adding the cream; the cream is always the last step and either I add it to the hot soup and let it somewhat cool it down before eating, or it can simmer a little more BUT I never boil it after I add the cream. That goes for cooking this soup in a crock pot too; I only add the cream after the full cooking time is complete, and all that is left is to shred the chicken, add the cream, stir until evenly mixed, and ready to enjoy.

The roux I always make in a pan separate from the other ingredients because I melt the butter, sprinkle on the flour, and use a silicone spatula to incorporate until you get almost a pastry dough like consistency. When I use my crock pot to make this soup, I stir in the roux with the chicken stock before I add all the vegetables, seasonings, and chicken so it will thicken as every cooks together.

The other thing that sets my soup apart from that other soup, I use poultry seasoning because it already has the perfect blend of all the spices I want. One and done. Boom. Not 10,000 bottles of spices to rummage through, open, measure, and put back. I will season with salt and pepper just before serving to make sure I don’t over season it. 

Oh, I cannot forget about the chicken stock. I actually do not keep canned stock on hand, or can my own (as much as the “pure-est” in me would love to), but I do keep jars of the Better than Bouillon in my pantry and use that 9 times out of 10. But whatever is on hand works just fine…and yes, this last time I made it, I painstakingly unwrapped and used those silly little bouillon cubes my husband bought a BULK jar of. Ya, not my jam if you catch my drift.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

This is the ultimate comfort food. Hearty, full of fresh vegetables, nutty full-bodied texture of wild rice, and chunks of juicy chicken, this creamy soup can be enjoyed on its own as a full meal. Wild rice, the caviar of all grains, has a deep earthy flavor with less calories and more nutrients than white or brown rice. So tasty, it will be hard to stop at one bowl. Skip the lines, and empty flavor of those other chicken wild rice soups, and make this gourmet custom masterpiece in the comfort of your own home, while enjoying the fruits of your labors the next day or two with just as flavorful, if not more, left overs.

1 jar Better Than Bouillon with 8 c water, or 2 quarts  (2-32 oz) chicken broth  

I c plus 4 T (2 1/2 sticks) butter, divided

2-3 T olive oil

1 c. flour

1 onion, chopped

2-3 celery ribs or 1 c, diced

2-3 carrots or 1 c sliced mini-carrots

2 T garlic, minced

1 c broccoli florets, cut into small pieces

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

 

4 1/2 c cooked wild rice (1 1/2 c dry wild rice)

2 tsp poultry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

2 chicken breasts, 2 c cubed cooked chicken, or a rotisserie chicken with meat removed and cubed*

2 c (1 pint) whole milk, whipping cream, or half-and-half**

*If using a crock pot, use raw chicken. If cooking on the stove, use pre-cooked cubed chicken, or use a rotisserie chicken with the meat removed and cubed

**Depending on how rich you want your soup, or what you have on hand. I mostly use half-and-half.

 

Crock Pot Directions:

1) Pour the water and Better Than Bouillon, or chicken stock into a crock pot.

2) In a sauté pan on medium heat, make a roux on the stove by first melting 1 c butter, then sprinkle on the flour.  Stir and combine into a pastry-dough like consistency with a silicone spatula. 

3) Add the roux to the chicken stock, and stir until evenly combined.  

4) Add the chicken, all the vegetables, dry wild rice, and poultry seasoning to the chicken stock.  

5) Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours. 

6) Once the chicken is cooked through, use two forks and shred the chicken in the crock pot.

7) Add the dairy of your choice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bon Appetite! 

 

Stove-top Directions:

1) In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 4 T of butter and 2-3 T oil on medium heat until melted.

2) Sauté the onion, carrots, celery in the butter mix until the onions are translucent. 

3) Add the garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli to sauté until the broccoli is bright green. You may also put the cover to the pot or dutch oven on to steam the vegetables until the broccoli is bright green.

4) Pour the water and Better Than Bouillon, or chicken stock in with the vegetables. 

5) Add the poultry seasoning, and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer until the carrots are al dente, or firm to the bite but not crunchy. 

6) In a sauté pan on medium heat, make a roux on the stove by first melting 1 c butter, then sprinkle on the flour.  Stir and combine into a pastry-dough like consistency with a silicone spatula. 

7) Add the roux to the chicken stock and vegetables, and stir until evenly incorporated into the soup.  Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened. 

8) Add the cooked chicken and wild rice. Stir and simmer until warmed through. 

9) Add the dairy of your choice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bon Appetite! 

 

 

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