Chicken options abound for creamy rice soup

The Whole Dish podcast: Egg thickens creamy, comforting chicken-rice soup

As a mom of two young children, I’ve come to terms with being sick. A lot. Since the kids started school two years ago, I wryly comment that our household can hardly go a month before someone comes down with symptoms from the sniffles to full-on plague.

Yet by some miraculous fate, I managed to evade the latest illness that kept my older son home from school the week before winter break, caused my husband to take sick time from work and progressed in my younger son to an ear infection. With all my faculties intact, I concentrated on cooking wholesome meals from ingredients I’d stashed away in the freezer.

Among those was an organic half chicken breast, bone-in, skin-on. It’s a cut of meat that doesn’t go very far among a family of four, unless you spread it around with other ingredients in a soup or stew, which is exactly what I did last night.

Because the bird’s bones and skin impart so much flavor and richness, I didn’t even need chicken stock. I simply simmered the meat whole in several cups of water for about 30 minutes before adding diced onion, celery, garlic, carrot and mini alphabet noodles. Then I pulled the meat from the skin and bones into bite-sized chunks.

A similar technique is used in the following recipe for cream of chicken and rice soup. It’s a format that also could benefit from a whole or half chicken breast, rather than boneless, skinless. The idea here is to infuse the flavor of chicken stock into a convenience cut of meat. I would adapt this dish, instead, to infuse the meat’s flavor into the liquid.

If you’re using leftover cooked rice, even white or brown, this recipe would make for a fast, weeknight dinner incorporating boxed stock and leftover or rotisserie chicken, as testers for the Kansas City Star suggest.

Tribune News Service photo

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 (4-ounce) box wild rice or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons uncooked wild rice

2 cups water

1 (32-ounce) carton reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

3 carrots, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 rib celery, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

8 ounces fresh button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half

Finely chopped scallions or chives, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the rice and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is done. Drain well and set aside.

Pour 1 cup of the chicken broth into a medium saucepan. Add the chicken breasts to broth and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. Remove chicken breasts from liquid and allow to cool slightly. Discard liquid. Cut chicken into small pieces and set aside.

In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms to saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the flour and stir until smooth and all liquid has evaporated.

Gradually add remaining 3 cups chicken broth, stirring continuously, until mixture begins to thicken. Add chicken and wild rice and heat through. Add half and half and stir until blended well.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the scallions, if desired.

Makes 8 servings (about 9 cups total).

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