Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

As soups go, this one is a meal unto itself. A generous portion of chicken breast flavored with diced ham, and made hearty with wild rice, this creamy soup certainly sets the tone for the courses yet to come. Wild rice gives this soup the satisfying bite not found with other grains that frequently bloat and turn to mush under the same conditions. Wild rice’s nutty flavor adds the perfect depth to this autumnal favorite.

Unlike other grains, however, the wild rice will need to be cooked beforehand for this soup. We’ll also only need about 2 cups of the rice. Now if all this seems a bit complicated or wasteful, reconsider this soup as a way to use the extra wild rice you have after making another dish such as wild rice, onions and cranberries.

As for the chicken, if you have roasted chicken breast in the refrigerator that would be ideal, but the breast off a rotisserie chicken is just as good, and frequently it’s more readily available. Most grocery stores have rotisserie chickens resting in hot cabinets near the deli section, or even in hot displays close to the checkouts. Sams Club, if you’re a member, has the largest rotisseried chickens, and the most available at any given time. Instead of three or four to choose from, you have dozens of chicken to pick from. You’ll also have all the delicious thigh, leg and wing meat to nibble on.

A slab of smoky ham is your next quest, and this can be had quite easily at any deli counter. Aside from the strange looks you’ll get when you ask for one or two slices of quarter-inch thick smoked ham, it makes dicing this meat a snap. If your deli counter meat slicers are metric, seven millimeters is about a quarter-inch. If you feel you aren’t getting strange enough looks from the staff, you could always ask for a one pound block of American cheese. This order caused more consternation than those for the thick slabs of meat. At any rate, deli meat (and cheese) is good for more than just sandwiches, and this soup is one of those examples.

The last few remaining ingredients, while not exotic, are still crucial. We’ll be adding sherry for flavor, which needs to be dry. Cream or other sweeter sherries should be avoided. Cream is usually the last ingredient added to soup. But for this soup we’ll be using whole milk to cut back on the heaviness of the broth. Milk poses it’s own set of challenges, most notably that it curdles under heat. Once you add the milk, this soup should just be brought back to a simmer and then removed from the heat. Using milk less than 4% (whole milk) will result in a watery soup which is not very appetizing. So if you don’t normally keep whole milk in the fridge, be sure to buy a pint of whole milk after visiting the deli counter for the ham.

Consider this delicious and easy soup for the first course of your next holiday meal. Or have a bowl with a thick slice of Irish soda bread for a meal all on its own.

Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 cup smoky ham, diced
  • ½ cup onion, finely diced
  • ¼ cup carrot, finely diced
  • 2 t. celery seeds
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced ½ inch dice
  • 2 t. fresh thyme
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • sliced green onions, for garnish
  • toasted slivered almonds, for garnish 

In a large dutch oven sauté the ham, onion and carrot in the butter until fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes. Add in the celery seed and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the sautéed vegetables and stir to combine and slightly cook the flour, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry and deglaze the pan. Add the broth and stir to combine. Add the rice, chicken and fresh thyme and gently stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the soup to simmer, gently for a few minutes to thoroughly cook the flour. Do not simmer or stir too vigorously or the chicken will begin to disintegrate. Add the milk and bring the soup back to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and serve garnished with green onion slices and toasted almonds.