Soup is something I know about. I’m not an expert. I still can’t make a from-scratch broth that I’m proud of nor can I make the best chicken noodle soup, which, in my humble opinion, is the epitome of good homemade soup. But I can make cream soups. It was a skill I learned working at a bar/pub many years ago. We would feature a soup of the day and after the owner taught me his technique, the task of creating them weekly often fell to me. That’s where I picked up the knowledge. Eventually I started making soup at home and I kind of honed a personal recipe for creamy chicken and rice soup that I think is pretty good.
If you believe in kismet, then you will see how the fates aligned to put Lola and I together in this world. You see Lola is a fan of soup. She tells me that she always has been that way. To her, soup is the perfect food. Warm, filling and delicious. If you gave her a bowl of soup every day, she would be happy. That’s the truth, because that’s her usual lunch – a can of Progresso soup while she sits by the heater. Even in the summer, a bowl of good soup will keep her going. A true soup fanatic. I too am a soup fan, although fall short in my level of enthusiasm when compared to Lola. Growing up, all I ever wanted for lunch was some Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. I still get excited reading about the soup of the day at any restaurant we visit. But our mutual soup admiration is not the only thing that connects Lola and I, it’s also the fact that she loves soup and I make a soup she loves. I’m the soup yang to her soup yin. Its destiny.
For a second, when I knew it was Homemade Soup Day, I thought that I might find a new recipe and make a whole new soup in celebration. Then I told Lola it was Homemade Soup Day and her first reaction was, “Are you making YOUR soup?” That clinched it for me. Why make a new and untested soup when I could use the day to celebrate a soup that has been in my life for years and we both love? Making my soup seemed like the ideal way to celebrate this day and to really toast what it means to both of us. Creamy Chicken and Rice it would be. I went to Clements Market to pick up the ingredients I needed and then started to make it.
I’ll try to map out my recipe here. It’s not one I’ve written down before, so bear with me. It may not be exact, but you’ll get the gist.
Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup
1.5 lbs of boneless chicken tenders
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp thyme (two uses)
1/4 tsp pepper (two uses)
1/4 tsp garlic powder (two uses)
1 medium onion, diced – save the top and bottom
5 stalks of celery, diced – save the leafy tops
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1.5 TBS of Chicken Base
1.5 cups of white rice
5 TBS butter
5 TBS flour
1/4 tsp of fresh ground nutmeg
1 qt light cream
1. In a medium sauce pan, boil the chicken in water along with the first use of the thyme, pepper, salt and pepper. Also add in the the tops of the onions and the leafy part of the celery for flavor. Boil until cooked (about ten minutes). Remove from water and set aside (throw away the onion and celery used). When it is cool enough to handle, dice the chicken.
2. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, combine the diced onions, carrots and celery along with the rice. Fill the pot up halfway/three-quarters with water. Add in the chicken base. Stir. Then add in the second use of the thyme, pepper and garlic powder (the chicken base is pretty salty, no need for more). Let that boil and then turn down to simmer, letting cook until the rice is done (about twenty minutes)
3. When the rice is done, remove from heat. Carefully strain the rice and veggies through a colander being careful to save the broth in a separate pan (that’s important – save the broth). Put both the broth and the rice and veggies aside.
4. In the same soup pan, add in the butter over medium heat. When the butter melts, add in the flour and whisk to combine. Let it cook for about two minutes, watching carefully. It should start to have a nutty smell to it. Add in the nutmeg and let cook for another minute.
5. Carefully whisk in the cream and let it cook for about two minutes making sure you whisk the corners of the pot so there are not clumps of flour/butter. Pour in your broth (careful, it’s hot) and stir. Then pour in your chicken and your rice and veggies. Let that simmer for about thirty minutes.
That’s it. That’s my secret recipe. It’s also the first recipe of my own that I have ever published here. Writing it out, I realized there are a lot of steps that I could change. First, you can bake your chicken rather than boil it. Second, rather than chicken base, you could really make this with homemade broth (just cook the veggies and rice in it). Chicken base is a restaurant shortcut, although it does give the soup a really good chicken flavor. However, a traditionalist would always opt for real broth. Finally, there is probably an easier way to combine all this rather than having the three ingredients separated. This is just how I have always made it, so that’s how I do it. If you have the expertise to make it all in one pot, knock your socks off. The soup came out pretty good today. We had it for dinner. But it always gets better the next day when it thickens up a little, so that will be something to look forward to.
Whenever I put it away in the fridge, I always put it in a big Tupperware container and because it’s still usually a little warm, I leave the lid slightly ajar so it doesn’t explode. I then warn Lola that if she goes to grab it, be careful because the lid is not on tightly. Every time I tell her this. I have some weird vision that she’ll reach in and it will crash down on her which could really ruin someone’s day. So being the safety man that I am, I always warn her. Lola just laughs now because she hears it every time.
Me and this soup go way back. Almost 25 years now. I make it in the same soup pot that I have been using since I first started. I also make my fudge in that same pot. That’s a testament to some good kitchen ware. I never thought I’d be a person who had a favorite pot, but I do. I actually have a couple of pans I’m pretty fond of too.
It really is a nice little soup. It has good chicken flavor plus the cream gives it some depth. I make sure it is full of chicken and rice too so you get nice hearty bites. I like it with crackers or, like we had it tonight, with some good crusty bread. We’ll be eating this all week, or at least Lola will. It’s nice to be able to make a soup that your wife, a noted soupaholic, truly loves. I’ve made this soup for her family (both her Mom and Dad liked it), and for my family too. I made it for my friends at work, and they loved it as well. This soup is kind of a star. That made it the perfect soup to celebrate on Homemade Soup Day. It honors the tradition of soup made in the warmth of your own kitchen. It salutes the power of good soup to bring health and love into our lives. Like all good things homemade, this day celebrates the goodness of home and I think my soup is part of our home. It’s part of Dan and Lola. And that’s why we can happily toast this day with a big slurp of soup. Cheers!
Next Up: World Nutella Day