Allow me to introduce you to the one cult that most Minnesotans would unabashedly claim membership to: Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. It is to Minnesota what BBQ is to Texas, a national obsession, if Minnesota was its only country.
Real wild rice is harvested by hand, from canoes by the Ojibwe tribes who live on the shores of the lakes where the authentic rice (a seed of a lake grass) actually grows. See my Double Mushroom and Wild Rice post for more details. Rarely available outside of the Upper Midwest because of its exorbitant price ($15 per lb, compared to $1.99 for regular rice), Co-opportunity here in Santa Monica sells something called wild rice, produced in California by Lundberg Family Rice company, but it isn’t the Minnesota real deal. Sure, it has that earthy smell and taste, but Ojibwe rice when cooked curls up like little worms. While upon first viewing this phenomenon, novices may feel a bit queasy, after one taste it is all dispelled because this soup just tastes so good!
This soup was inspired by politics and the coming of cooler weather. Why politics? Reading the paper and the ongoing depressed state of our economy and all the politics around it all made me think about comfort food and not spending too much money on it. Spying a chicken carcass in the freezer, I knew this soup was the perfect answer.
Homemade chicken stock is a must for this soup; not difficult, just involves some advance planning. Whether you you make bone-in chicken for one meal and have leftover bones or make a baked chicken and have the carcass, either will make great stock. Additional chicken is almost unnecessary for the soup since the stock will give it so much flavor. Simply boil the bones or the carcass with 2 quarts (8 cups) water and a splash of cider vinegar which helps draw the good stuff out of the marrow. Reduce to a simmer for at least 1 hour, longer to concentrate the flavor. Allow to cool and then skim off the fat and particles that have accumulated. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup cooked chicken, diced
Heat olive oil in medium sauce pan and add onion and garlic. Saute for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add celery and carrots and stir and cook another 4-5 minutes until soft. Add stock, thyme, and rice and bring to boil. Cook covered over low heat for 25 minutes. Uncover and add chicken and cook another 5-10 minutes until rice is cooked. Season with salt and pepper as needed and serve.
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