Fall in the kitchen: part one of three

October 6, 2008 at 7:27 pm 1 comment

There’s just something about the season — the crisp air, the rustle of the wind through the dry leaves, the Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma catalogs — that reminds me just how much I love food. There’s some quality about the air that makes me want to throw open all the windows, hunker down in the kitchen, and bake my little heart out.

And that’s precisely what I did this weekend, while procrastinating on my dreaded homework. Besides, it was perfect weather for baking (cooking too). I don’t know if that makes sense. But it’s true.

Keith wasn’t feeling tippety-top, so I started with chicken and wild rice soup — a fast and easy version, which basically means I used a store-bought stock, rather than making my own from scee-ratch. That takes hours. Like most of my soups, I made it up on the fly (the true beauty of soup!), but it went something like this:

Fast and Easy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery (with greens), chopped
1 cup chopped baby bella (cremini) mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
2 bay leaves
1 32 oz. can whole tomatoes, with juice
2 32 oz. boxes low-sodium chicken stock
2 medium potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup wild rice
2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts (you can use bone-in skin-on, if you want — it’ll be more flavorful!)
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. In 5-quart pot, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until onions are soft, but not transparent (unless you don’t like your onions to be a little al dente in the finished soup — then cook them more) — about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add mushrooms, garlic, parsley, rosemary and sage. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add canned tomatoes to the pot, using kitchen shears, a fork or a spoon to break the tomatoes apart (you *could* use diced or stewed tomatoes, but I think the whole ones taste better). Add the chicken stock, potatoes, bay leaves and rice. Stir everything together and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the chicken breasts, making sure they are submerged. Bring to a boil and cook until the chicken is cooked through — about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pot to cool. Reduce heat and continue simmering the liquid until the rice is fully cooked. Remove bay leaves.
  6. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and add back to the pot, allow to reheat if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

(Please forgive me: I only took one photo, and that was when the soup was about half done. So it doesn’t *look* fabulous. But it tasted that way.)

What’s lovely about this — about soup — is that you could throw in some cooked chorizo sausage and a can of black beans (drained and rinsed!) — omitting the sage and rosemary, and adding a bit of cumin instead (say, 2 tsp), completely changing the flavor. You could use pasta instead of rice, and toss in some broccoli florets in the last 10 minutes. What else? Put in just half of the stock, thicken it with a roux, and have stew. You could add barley, leeks, or fennel. You could leave out the potatoes or mushrooms. It’s whatever you’ve got on hand, whatever you’re in the mood for! Anything goes, really. Don’t be scared.

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Entry filed under: Food. Tags: , , , .

Six Random Things About Myself: Part five Fall in the kitchen: part two of three

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