Soup’s On!

24 Jan

I am a firm believer in the power of soup. No, not for healing from the common cold. Nor for “healing” of my soul…no, I just believe that soup is wonderful, delicious stuff, and if it cures my body and my soul while I’m eating it, so much the better.

My mother is a soup magician. When I was growing up, she could take turkey bones, leftover green beans, a little lemon juice, onion and celery and rice, and make a pot of deliciousness which would bring us all running when “soup’s on” echoed down the glass-walled hallway. When I was home over Christmas, she made soup too – though with quinoa noodles, a noticeable change since the ‘80’s – and proved that she still has what it takes to bring us running.

Because I’d watched Mom turn leftovers into magic so many times, I wasn’t afraid to try making soup myself when finally on my own in my tiny grad-school kitchen. It must be in my genes. Luckily for my taste buds, I was not disappointed.

We finally got some snow last night; about 5 inches of powdery, dry stuff with which the prairie winds have a heyday. The lack of snow to this point has somehow curbed my soup-longing but today I’m drooling over cookbooks, planning at least a week of soup, soup, soup!!

Wild rice - before it's cooked.

Here’s my all-time favorite – Wild Rice Chicken Soup. (It’s my 9-year old daughter’s favorite, too). This even won my husband over, and he wasn’t a fan of wild rice. Wild rice, in case you don’t know, isn’t really rice at all. Also known as Canada Rice or Indian Rice, it is the flowering head of a certain type of grass which grows in certain shallow lakes. Harvesting is a bit of a bother, as each grain is gotten by whacking the tops of the grasses over the edge of a tarp-lined canoe, causing the grains to fall onto the tarp. This means you need two people for sure – one canoeing, one whacking – and, as you can guess, the cost of wild rice reflects all the time and bother of the harvest.

That being said, it’s more easily found than it used to be, when people in Minnesota could find it but no one else ever could. It grows well in Northern MN, as well as (as the name suggests), parts of Canada. I know it can be found in Trader Joes across the United States, though I’m not certain it can be found in Australia – sorry to you, my Aussie readers! As with everything these days, I’m sure it can be found on-line wherever you live!

After it's cooked and the grains have popped open. Steamy goodness!

Cooking wild rice for a LONG TIME is necessary to soften the tough outer shell of the grain. The packaging should have directions to cook the rice. I think using the stovetop is best, though I’ve done it in the oven (takes 2 hours) and I’ve even seen microwave directions, though I’ve never tried it that way. Rinse the rice before you cook it, to get rid of dust and/or small stones. You can buy pre-cooked and canned wild rice…but that always seems like a bit of a cop-out to me! It does speed up the process, but it also adds to the cost…and, most likely, the sodium levels.

Cooking times for the rice may vary. You can tell the rice is done cooking when MOST of the grains of popped open. There may be some water left – it does not have to soak up all of the liquid, just enough to pop the majority of the grains of rice. Conversely, sometimes you have to add more water if not enough of the grains seem to have popped.

The butter...the onion...the flour...the broth

So, cook ONE AND ONE HALF CUPS OF WILD RICE according to the package directions. Then, when it’s ready, (it will take approximately one hour, sometimes half that again.) you can proceed with the rest of the yummy soup.

You will need, in addition to the rice:
8 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
2/3 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth – I often end up needing more…
3 cups cooked wild rice (from the one cup, dry that you already cooked – there may be more and that’s fine – but if you do add more, know that you may have to adjust the salt etc.)
1 teaspoon (or to taste) salt – though more is needed at the end
Two grated carrots – or even 3!
Two cups cooked, chopped chicken (approximately)
1 – 1 ½ cups half and half
Pepper to taste
I always need to add more salt at the end and sometimes add a little onion powder too, to up the flavor a wee bit. I have even been known to add chicken bullion (shhh…don’t tell any real cooks about that).

Melt butter in saucepan, sauté onion until tender. Blend in flour, gradually stir in broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil, boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in rice and salt and carrots, simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken. Mix in half and half and heat, but try not to boil with the half and half in it. Add pepper and more salt if needed. I often will add a little more broth and/or half and half at this point – depending on thickness desired, personal taste, etc.

All done!!!

I am by no means a professional chef, nor do I ever desire to be, but everyone who has had this likes it, and I have shared the recipe many times. Even non-soup people like this recipe!! I made this for a friend from church when she was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we moved here to SW Minnesota. Her husband remembered the soup when, 13 years later, she died of the disease. Now that’s a special soup.

So…there you have it. My medicine for a winter’s day. ENJOY!

Why does it look orange? The carrots...I may have added too many! (But can you ever have too many veggies?!) Then I added the rest of my broth because it was thawed and needed to be it looks a little thin in the picture, but it actually is very thick and filling and fabulous!

PS – there are many other wild rice recipes out there, including many salads, but the only way my husband likes it is in this soup, so I’ve not tried them. I’d love to hear any input about more wild rice recipes!! Then, perhaps, I could try to expand his palate a little!!


20 Responses to “Soup’s On!”

  1. ceciliag January 24, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Well, beautiful soup aside, i had no idea that wild rice was a grass seed. Thank you.. c

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 24, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      Just one of those funny little bits of information my mind has retained! Have a great day, Celi!

  2. Rose January 24, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Yum! Yum! You KNOW I love this. :o)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 24, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      Horray! I thought about you when I wrote about Trader Joes. Does it make you want to run out and get some rice?!

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots January 24, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    I have never made wild rice soup, but I do love it. The wild rice cooking part has always scared me. But, with your step-by-step instructions, I may take on the challenge. I, too, am a lover of soup and could eat soup every day in the winter. Unfortunately, I have picky eaters and they wouldn’t go for that.

    One of my sisters hosts a soup party every autumn with each guest bringing a different soup. We’ve had well over 20 soups to sample some years. It’s great fun and yummy. You should try this next fall.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 25, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      Cooking the rice is easy as pie! Never have I had problems with it. Go for it!!! Yeah, I’m not sure that my entire family would want soup ever night, either…though I don’t think I’d mind.

      I absolutely love your soup party idea. I will totally keep that in mind…

  4. bitsandbreadcrumbs January 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Oh my, I’d forgotten just how much I like chicken and wild rice soup until I saw your post come across, and this recipe sounds delicious! I’m going to make some as soon as our weather turns cold again.

  5. rutheh January 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    Soup season is in full swing. Thanks for sharing your recipe and photos. Have never made Wild Rice soup. Looks tasty!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 25, 2012 at 6:29 am #

      Yes, it’s like it’s in our genes…bears automatically hibernate when it gets cold…humans automatically begin making soup. 🙂

  6. Carmen January 25, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    Mmmm, soup. Am almost counting the days until winter, ‘though I have been making some chilled soups such as Avocado and also vicchysoisse(sp?).

    Wild Rice can be bought here in Australia – Cambrian brand in 100g packets at $3.75AU ($3.90US).

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 25, 2012 at 6:24 am #

      Thank you so much for stopping by! The only chilled soup I’ve had is Gazpacho…with crab in it…it was amazing. I’m so glad to know that wild rice can be bought there in Australia! Thank you so much for mentioning that. Now there are no excuses…except perhaps the fact that it’s summer!! Come back again!

  7. Kiran @ January 25, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    LOVE wild rice soups — so full of flavors and comforting for winters 🙂

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      Yes, there’s a nutty flavor to the rice that can’t be found elsewhere. So tasty!

  8. hotlyspiced January 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Your soup looks so delicious Gretchen and so perfect for your cold weather. I love wild rice but it’s quite expensive here, being fully imported. And yes, you do have to cook it for a long time. Last year I discovered quinoa for the first time and we’ve been cooking with it quite a bit but I’ve never seen quinoa noodles. I’ll have to try and source some. I’m imagining you could use them as a gluten free pasta substitute?

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Thanks! I have no intention of posting very many recipes – I get too nervous about them – what if they don’t work?!! I’m glad you can get the rice there, but yes, it doesn’t surprise me about the cost – it’s bad enough here! I have only cooked with quinoa once – and also had it once in a restaurant – and I like it both times. I’m not sure I’ve seen the noodles, either, where I am. I think my mom can find them easily out in Seattle. Maybe a healthfood store would have them? I’m assuming that they’re gluten free, but I don’t know for sure…good question. You’ll have to get to work and give us all a recipe with them!

      • Kris January 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

        Hi, just to put in my 2 cents worth… Quinoa noodles can be purchased in several of the larger grocery stores out here.(Washington state) They are gluten free. They do well reheated the next day, unlike (or so my family has found) rice noodles. However, my daughter tried them in a pasta salad, and was not impressed. I have not found them in a lasagna noodle yet, though…:( (Rice lasagna noodle don’t cut it)Just an FYI

        • Gretchen O'Donnell January 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

          Thanks! Yes, I suppose you would know about the gluten free thing. Good info., thank you for your two cents!

  9. Malou January 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    This wild rice soup is very interesting. I love anything with rice so I will definitely try it. In the Philippines, we have something similar called “arroz caldo” which I really love.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 29, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Yay! I’m so glad you want to try it. You’ll have to let me know what you think!

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