Feb 29, 2008

Smoked Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

We're in the twilight zone of Austin weather where it can be reaching for 90 one day and hovering around freezing the next. I love Spring, especially in Austin, but I'll really miss those cold, but cozy days when a big bowl of hearty soup is the perfect comfort food. Some of you, who may not live in the tropics of Texas, may have a little more time to enjoy a soup like this.

I've been making the basic recipe for this chicken and mushroom soup for years. Since my husband was kind enough to smoke a chicken in his smoker last time he cranked it up, I decided to try this variation. And we liked it even better. I had also ordered some beautiful beans and wild rice from Rancho Gordo and thought the wild rice might add some nice texture. It was luscious. I'll be making it this way from now on. If you don't have smoked chicken, you can use leftover roasted chicken. The bacon adds a bit of smokiness too that's really nice with the mushrooms.

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
4 slices smoked bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 pound porcini, shiitake or cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup flour
1 cup white wine
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup wild rice
3/4 - 1 lb. roasted or smoked and shredded chicken
1 cup whole milk/half&half/cream (your choice - I like 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup half&half)
handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water. Let soak, covered, for 30 minutes. Drain through a sieve, reserving the mushroom liquid. Chop the mushrooms. Set aside.

Sauté the bacon, remove from pan, and pour off excess bacon grease. Chop the bacon, return it to the pan and add the onion. Sauté the onions and bacon until the onions are translucent. (Your kitchen will start smelling pretty good at this point.)

Add the garlic, thyme, and fresh and rehydrated mushrooms and sauté another 8-10 minutes until mushrooms relax and absorb the flavors in the pan.

Spinkle flour over mushrooms and stir for a few more minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Stir in the wine and continue cooking another minute or two.

Stir in the chicken stock, mushroom liquid, tomato paste and bay leaf. Simmer until tomato paste dissolves. Add the wild rice and simmer until rice is cooked through (cooking time depends on the rice you're using). If you're using raw chicken, put it in now too to allow it to cook though. If you're using smoked or already roasted chicken, add it after the rice is cooked to avoid toughening it. If, as it's simmering, the broth cooks down too much, you can add a little more to get the consistency you like.

Stir in the milk/half&half/cream and raise heat slightly to bring temperature back up for serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve, garnished with parsley on top. It adds a real freshness to the soup.

Serves 4-6.

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