Chicken and Heirloom Red Rice Soup
October 17, 2011
One of my favorite soups when I was a kid was my mom’s rainy day chicken soup. Made with chicken, rice, carrots, and other vegetables, there was just something about it that was extremely satisfying (as well as comforting). Using that as inspiration, I thought it would be fun to make a chicken and rice soup using the ruby red jasmine rice I discovered at Whole Foods a few months ago. I also planned to use some dragon carrots and red and orange bell pepper from the Farmers’ Market to add even more color.
For a couple of meals last week, I ended up doing some of my chopping and cooking the night before, because I knew that I would have a busy week at work, and wasn’t sure if I’d be getting home later than normal (or be more tired than normal). I made this soup in its entirety the night before we ate it. I was surprised when I took it out of the fridge the next day that it had kind of turned from soup into a saucy rice dish. It seems that even though the rice was sufficiently tender when I stopped cooking it, it still absorbed more liquid overnight. Since I really like soups that are (over-)crowded with vegetables and grains of some sort, I didn’t bother to thin it at all, but you could certainly add more broth during cooking if you wanted it more soup-like.
I didn’t feel like doing anything too laborious with the chicken, so I actually ended up boiling it. I had done a bit of research, which claimed that you could boil chicken breasts, and the meat would remain moist. I planned to use very lean, boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead, but figured I could use the same process. My husband was quite dubious of this method, conjuring up lurid images of grey, rock hard, boiled roast. But we were both pretty impressed with the results. It was very quick to cook, and it really did end up tender and moist. The package I used was about a pound and a half, so I broke it down into about 5 even(ish) sized pieces before boiling so they would cook faster. Once it was done, I just shredded the meat a bit with a fork.
When I started making the soup, I really didn’t have too much of a plan for what herbs or spices I planned to use. I thought I would use Mexican oregano again, but wasn’t sure what else I’d use. After the rice was mostly done and I was ready to add the sweated vegetables and cooked chicken, I threw in the Mexican oregano, and then just started tasting. I’m still nowhere near as savvy with spices and herbs as I’d like to be, so I often just open the cupboard with our spices, and take bottles out and smell them, while thinking about the flavor I just tasted. I added just a touch of dill weed and smoked paprika using this on-the-fly method, but it still didn’t have enough flavor afterwards, so I pulled out Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference, a fairly new acquisition of mine. I really like this book, because you can look up an herb or spice, and it tells you all about it, how to use it and store it, but it also indicates what other herbs of spices it goes well with. So When I looked up oregano/Mexican oregano, it said that it combined well with paprika (how lucky, since I just added some), as well as cumin. Well, I love cumin, so I figured I’d try some of that. The addition of a bit of cumin really helped add more dimension to the flavor of the soup, so I was quite pleased with the result.
Chicken and Heirloom Red Rice Soup
1+1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup uncooked heirloom red rice
6 cups chicken broth
3 large carrots, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried cumin
1/2 tsp dill weed
Cut the chicken into several even-sized pieces. Place the chicken in a large pot of boiling water, bring back to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer to ensure doneness – 165 degrees for the internal temperature is the standard for safety. Let the chicken cool, and then shred it into bite-sized pieces with a fork. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to add it to the soup.
Combine the rice with the broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and set a timer for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, onion, pepper and carrots with 2 tsp olive oil, and sweat the vegetables (cook them, covered) over medium heat until tender, stirring frequently. It should take about 10 minutes, but be sure to check earlier. Set aside until the rice is mostly tender, then add the additional broth, chicken, vegetables, herbs and spices, and simmer 20-30 minutes until the flavors are well combined.