Chicken and Rice Soup

April 17, 2013:
Cook’s Country – February/March issue
Chicken and Rice Soup

“Too often, cutting corners in an effort to save time spoils the broth. Our version of chicken and rice soup cuts down on time but not on flavor.” ~ Erika Bruce

Well now, that chicken was a helluva lot easier – and tastier! – to prepare than the last chicken I tried. No near salmonella poisoning this time, oh no!

For this month’s challenge I had planned a completely different recipe with the intent of taking on dinner duty last Sunday. But this stupid cold got in the way, and the last thing me and my stuffed head wanted to do was spend hours cursing in the kitchen. And so, the ingredients that could be frozen were put in the freezer, and the fresh ingredients we hoped to use in other meals.

As the days past, my head did not become any less fuzzy, my nose continued to clog up with thick buckets of snot (TMI???) and my body felt like I was lugging around a ton of bricks. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, on Day 5, Big Ring was struck. His eyes puffed up like he’d been crying for hours, his breathing became hoarse, his sneezes rocked the loft, and his tonsils tickled him into coughing fits for hours on end. Suddenly, there was no more time for me to be wallowing in sickness, I needed to take action.

Insert Chicken and Rice Soup cooking challenge.

You would think I’d be a tad concerned preparing this recipe, I mean, we were already sick. What if this was the recipe that actually poisoned us? And then, there was the chicken requirement – a whole chicken!

I have a bit of a history with whole chickens. You see, several months back, I got it in my head I wanted to prepare a whole chicken. I spent weeks finding the perfect recipe, and then sent Big Ring on a grocery run. I told him before he left for work that morning when he got home he’d be sinking his teeth into the most aromatic, juicy chicken he’d ever tasted. And for a guy who loves his Swiss Chalet (seriously, I do not know why) he was excited to say the least.

But that chicken, ohhh it dogged me, it mocked me, it nearly killed me – literally. After hours and hours and more hours, I finally pulled the sucker out of the oven, and started sawing off pieces only to discover – HE WAS NOT COOKED!!! A bloody beast he still was! And I swore, from that day on, I would never, EVER, roast a chicken again.

Technically, I’ve kept that promise. This recipe called for a whole chicken, yes it did, but rather then roast it yourself, it used a shortcut of purchasing a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Brilliant! 😀

All in, I spent about an hour and a bit on this recipe, and was able to get the stock, from start to finish, completed while Little Ring was napping. The heavenly smells of sauteed onions turned our loft into a reverie of memories for me of the smells of my childhood home. And last night, when Big Ring and I slurped back that belly warming soup, it was just what the doctor ordered!

Honestly, I think this was the best challenge recipe to date. Every spoonful I took, I patted myself on the back, there was no second guessing, no I could have done this better, no complaints. I had two bowls, it was that tasty!!!

The only problem, because it called for arborio rice, a nemesis of my good diabetes control, I struggled figuring out the insulin dose required, which, with my already unhealthy state rocking my blood sugars, meant a much higher than liked BG post dinner hours. But sometimes, in the name of a hearty chicken soup remedy, a diabetic’s got to do what a diabetic’s got to do!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, sliced thin crosswise, and washed thoroughly; dark green part chopped coarse and washed thoroughly
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 (2 1/2-pound) rotisserie chicken, skin and bones reserved for stock, meat shredded into bite-size pieces (3 cups)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup short-grain white rice
Salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, dark green leek part, and celery and cook until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add chicken skin and bones, broth, water, thyme, and bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, loosely covered, for 30 minutes.
2. Strain stock through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids and set stock aside. (You should have about 8 cups of stock. If you have less, add water to equal 8 cups.)
3. Wipe out now-empty Dutch oven with paper towels and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add white and light green leek parts and carrots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until edges of rice become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add stock and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in chicken and peas and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Serves 6

Other 12 Months of Cooking Challenge recipes:
• February 1, 2013: “Impossible” Ham and Cheese Pie
• March 20, 2013: Easy Asparagus Tart

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