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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wild Rice Soup with Chicken and Peppers


Warm and bright, delicious and nutritious, wild rice soup is the perfect dish for cold weather and rainy or snowy days. Pair it with a green salad and clementines or an ounce or two of dark chocolate for dessert. You'll forget about the weather in no time.

My version of creamy wild rice soup contains the usual suspects: onion, celery, carrots, wild rice, chicken broth, and cream. But it also contains red pepper, which adds color, vitamins, and antioxidants, and red pepper flakes, which contribute heat and anti-inflammatory effects. (You can use as much or as little as you like.)

I omited thickeners like flour and other starches, so it's light and creamy instead of thick and sticky, a refreshing change. Because I used bone broth, this soup is full of healthy fat, minerals in their most digestible form, and other nutrients that help our bodies maintain healthy bones, joints, and connective tissues. I used chicken stock and shredded chicken but feel free to substitute turkey broth and leftover turkey.

This recipe calls for dried Herbes de Provence during cooking and fresh parsley to garnish, but you can substitute any herbs you like. Try dried rosemary or sage, or fresh basil or thyme. If you can, soak the rice several hours before you cook it.

For a dairy-free version, add more broth in place of cream.

1 cup wild rice, pre-soaked
Sea salt
2 tbsp rendered duck fat (or substitute organic butter or extra virgin olive oil)
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp Herbes de Provence or other dried herbs 
8 cups bone broth
3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 cup  heavy cream (grass-fed or organic)
Several cups of shredded slow-roasted chicken (recipe follows)

Drain the wild rice and transfer it to a large sauce pan. Cover the rice with plenty of filtered water and add a generous pinch of salt.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer it until tender, about 45 minutes or more. The grains are fully cooked when they are tender and partially puffed open. They should not be fully open, mushy, or overcooked. Drain the rice and set it aside.

Melt the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot (cast iron or stainless steel) over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, red pepper, red pepper flakes, ground pepper, and dried herbs. Stir and cook until the vegetables have softened and started to brown. Add the broth and a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir the mixture and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer it until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes more.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the garlic, cream, and drained, cooked wild rice. Stir and continue cooking just until the mixture is hot. Do not boil the soup once you have added the cream. Taste it for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments.

There are three options for serving:

#1  Ladle the soup into bowls and top it with pulled slow-roasted chicken. Garnish the soup with fresh parsley and serve it immediately.

#2  Place the pulled chicken in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle the soup on top. Garnish the soup with fresh parsley and serve it immediately.

#3  Chop the chicken, stir it into the soup, then ladle it into bowls. Garnish the soup with fresh parsley and serve it immediately.


Slow-Roasted Chicken

This roasted chicken recipe couldn't be easier. You just need salt, pepper, and some sort of fat, plus a good quality pasture-raised chicken. (Unlike "free range chickens" you find in grocery stores, chickens that were raised on pasture contain fat that is good for you. Find them at your local farmers market.)

Like all roasted meats, whole chickens should be cooked low and slow. This prevents them from drying out (as long as you don't cook them too long) and prevents cancer-causing compounds from forming. (Heterocyclic amines or HCAs are formed when amino acids in meat are exposed to temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Cancer Institute.)

I don't bother to truss my chicken, although you certainly could. Instead I make some slits in the skin and tuck the legs and wings inside to keep them close to the body, which ensures even cooking. This simple recipe doesn't call for stuffing the bird, but you could if you want, with onion, garlic, fresh herbs, and/or organic citrus fruit. 

1 pasture-raised chicken at room temperature
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Rendered duck fat, grass-fed butter, or extra virgin olive oil

Take your chicken out of the fridge up to two hours before you cook it to allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Smear a small amount of fat in the bottom of a baking pan and set it aside.

Dry the chicken, inside and out. Place the chicken on its back (breast-side up).  Locate the flaps of skin on the bottom of the bird and make a small slit in each one where the opposite leg makes contact. Push the end of right leg through the slit on the left, and the end of the left leg through the slit on the right.

Extend one wing and pull it down between the body and the thigh. Make a small slit in the skin there and push the end of the wing through to secure it.

Repeat on the other side.

Season the bird generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper on the front, back, and sides. Place it in the baking dish, breast-side up.

Transfer the chicken to the oven and reduce the temperature to 300F. Bake it until the skin is golden brown, the joints fall apart easily when prodded, and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads at least 180F. A 5-pound bird takes about two and a half hours.

Pull the chicken apart. Reserve the pan juices, bones, skin, and cartilage for bone broth.

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