Cream of Chicken Soup With Wild Rice

It's the snowmobiling season in the winter wonderland. Up north, I just have to prepare a big pot of warming soup for the outdoorsy crowd. I like to pack it with the "stick-to-your-ribs" carbohydrates--in this case wild rice.

Wild rice is native to the Great Lakes area. It's considered an elite grain for two reasons. (1) It is extremely nutritious, being rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins, minerals and very low in fat and (2) it can be very expensive (like $5 to $10 per pound!). Mostly found in Minnesota, it is harvested by American Indians. It's not really rice, but the seed of a grass that grows wild near and in water. When cooked, it plumps up to four times it's size, so in that way, you're getting more for your money. They have been producing it lately commercially (in California and the Mid-West), but this does hurt the Indian economy.

There are three kinds of wild rice: 1) giant (the most expensive and often served with wild game) 2) medium grain (the most popular) and 3) short grain (the least expensive--good for pancakes and soups!) You'll need half a pound for this Cream of Chicken Soup With Wild Rice, so find one within your budget and go for it:

8 ounces               wild rice, uncooked
1 ea.                  3 pound fryer chicken (or pheasant if you still have one!)
 7 cups                cold water
2 TB                   oil
1 cup                  chopped onions
12 ounces              mushrooms, chopped
1 cup                  chopped celery
3/4 cup                flour
4 cups                 half and half
3/4 tsp                white pepper
1 tsp                  thyme
2 ea.                  bay leaves
3/4 cup                dry white wine
2 TB                   chicken base
1/2 cup                butter 

Put the chicken in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil and simmer 40 minutes. While it's simmering, we're going to cook that elite grain. First bring 4 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice, stir and bring back to a boil. Simmer covered for 45 minutes or until the grains open up.

Back to your meat: take it out of the broth, cool, then remove and toss skins and bones. Skim off the fat from the broth. Pour the broth into another bowl. In the empty pot, add your oil and saute the onions, mushrooms and celery for five minutes. Add your flour and mix well. Return the broth to this pot and add your cream along with the spices. Simmer 35 minutes. To finish it off, add your white wine, butter and chicken base to taste and the cooked wild rice. As for a wine, Wildhurst makes a superb Sauvignon Blanc Clear Lake at about $7 a bottle--a bargain. And as always, a creative cook appreciates nature and what it has to offer.