I was going to tell you all about wild rice. About the time Kev’s grandma, who grew up in Minnesota, gave us a small packet as a gift after we were newly married. Rice? Thank you? I didn’t realize what a gift it was then. I was going to tell you about this sacred grain that grows wild by Minnesota lakes and streams, harvested then and now by members of the Ojibwe Nation. I was going to tell you how the cost of a tiny packet matches the richness of flavor. It’s worth a splurge. I was going to tell you about all that…
And then life turned upside down in a week. Schools closed and so did our grocery store around the corner and the restaurant we ordered take-out from last Friday, from a virus we could all see coming. Rule #1: never run upstairs in a scary movie. This time though, it’s best to run upstairs and stay upstairs. And maybe make some wild rice soup too.
When I started working on this recipe late last year, using mostly pantry staples, like I normally do, I had no idea how timely it would be. Cooking is hard enough. Cooking with depleting resources during a quarantine is an entirely different beast. While this wild rice soup is pantry friendly, you may have to get creative with whatever is left in yours. I left a couple of substitution suggestions in the recipe notes. If you get swappy, will you leave a note in the comments with how you made it work?
About Wild Rice Soup
If you’re from Minnesota, there’s a good chance you grew up on Wild Rice Soup. If not, it’s akin to Chicken Noodle Soup, with wild rice standing in for the beloved noodle. But it’s not just any rice. Wild rice is deep in color and nutty and earthy in flavor, composed of other enticing flavors I don’t have the words for. It’s something all of its own. For now, any rice will do. But when the clouds part and the stores open, try wild rice. I should mention the consistency of this soup. It’s thinner than most, not thickened by a flour paste or a roux. In fact, it’s not thickened at all unless you count the splash of cream that goes in at the very end, pulling all the flavors together. I guess you could call this lightened up Wild Rice Soup, but that communicates that you’re missing something. There’s nothing missing about it.
Loaded with carrots, potatoes, onions, these are the things you can count on to tide you over in the weeks that follow, plus a handful of peas from the freezer, dried herbs from the drawer, and water from the sink. As for the milk and cream, well, hopefully there’s a little bitta that left in the house for a couple bowls of soup.
I usually like to leave you with something happy and uplifting here. A cheers of some sort. But today I’m going to honor my tangled up mix of emotions, and yours too, by holding my words. They seem to be as sparse as our fresh produce drawer.
This Wild Rice Soup, composed mostly of pantry staples, is a little thinner than most, not thickened with a flour paste. I like it best this way. For simple measuring, use a liquid measuring cup for everything except the dried herbs. For those, use a 1/2 teaspoon for minimal tools to clean afterwards. See notes below for substitutions.
1 tbsp. olive oil 1 c. sweet onion diced (about half a large onion) 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided 1 1/2 c. thinly sliced carrots (about 2–3 large carrots) 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 3/4 tsp. dried sage 1/2 tsp. dried basil
a couple cracks of pepper 5 c. water, plus more as needed 3/4 c. wild rice, rinsed 1 1/4 c. russet potatoes diced into 1/2″ cubes (about 1 medium potato) 1 c. pulled rotisserie chicken (or boiled chicken) 1 c. whole milk 3/4 c. frozen peas 1/4 c. heavy cream
In a dutch oven or stock pot over low heat, add oil and diced onion, plus a pinch of the measured out salt. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until translucent, not browned. Meanwhile, prepare the carrots. I like to use this tool for slicing.
Add in the carrots, thyme, sage, basil, pepper, and another couple pinches of salt. Stir to evenly coat before pouring in the water and wild rice. Bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the potatoes and chicken.
Add in the potatoes, chicken, milk, peas, and remaining salt. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the rice and potatoes are cooked through.
Finish by stirring in the heavy cream. Taste and add additonal salt and pepper as needed.
To omit chicken, add diced mushrooms in with the onions. Leftover celery? Add that in while the onions sauté too.