If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m all about soups. Just take a look at the soup section here for proof. It’s not just that they’re generally hard to mess up, and that they come together quickly, but there’s just something so satisfying about a good soup. To be honest, soup is one of my favorite things about living so far north. It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time saying goodbye to Winter. I love sitting down with my family to a big kettle of hot soup loaded with vegetables, grains, or legumes. And I love to try different spices– to see how they meld together in the broth.
Since we eat soup so often during Winter (several times per week), I try to keep it healthy. These are our everyday meals, after all. You likely know that I splurge on occasion and make a meal that isn’t exactly low in the calorie count. But for the food that nourishes us every day, I try to be a bit more moderate. My version of wild rice and mushroom soup is light, yet still packed with flavor and nutrients. It’s far removed from those thick, goopy versions– laden with flour– that you often find in restaurants. As an aside, it took me years to convince my husband that the stick-to-your-spoon soups are overrated. He’s finally come around.
To keep the soup lighter, I like to use evaporated milk. It makes it creamy, without the heaviness of actual cream. And ‘yes’, you can always use real cream instead. If you do so, just make sure to add it at the end so it doesn’t curdle. And if you really prefer a little more thickness, I recommend making a roux from cornstarch and water. Again, add it near the end of your cooking time. This is the perfect soup for making a few things ahead of time. Both the chicken and the wild rice can be prepared in advance and refrigerated. If you do it this way, the soup really comes together in a cinch.
One last thing to keep in mind here– and I guess I mean to generalize this to all of my recipes– but pay attention to the salt. If you look back through my other recipes, you’ll see I usually don’t give precise measurements for how much salt to add. Salt can make or break a dish. A quote by chef Thomas Keller has stuck with me– and I’ll paraphrase– if you can taste the salt, you’ve added to much. Salt should enhance the other flavors, but you shouldn’t taste the salt. My point is, since every broth and roasted chicken contains different levels of salt, you’ll have to decide how much you want to add. Taste, taste, taste!
The Recipe: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup
(Serves 4 comfortably)
3/4 cup dry wild rice, cooked
7-8 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 1/4 cup)
1/2 medium white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced thick (between 2 – 2 1/4 cups)
1 large leek, white and green parts only, chopped
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 quarts organic chicken broth
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
2 cups roasted chicken, thickly shredded or cubed
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Cook the wild rice according to directions on package. Make sure not to overcook it; it will cook a bit longer in the soup. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, leeks, celery, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes until vegetables start to soften, making sure to stir a few times. When the vegetables are somewhat soft, add the chicken broth, mushrooms, and rice. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender. Add the evaporated milk, chicken, and sherry. Let simmer until the chicken has warmed through and the flavors have melded. Season with salt, pepper, and stir in the chopped parsley. Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread!
Have a wonderful weekend!