I live in Texas (as many of you know, or those who have, at least, glanced at my profile blurb). Texas isn’t a particularly…wintry state. Until it’s winter, that is. And even then, we’ve been known to have 80º weather on Christmas. Then again, we can start to have really good fall weather about halfway through fall, like now. Gray, rainy, and cold — for us, it’s cold, that is. Our high today was 64º, and with the gray skies and drizzly afternoon, it felt a little colder. Either way, my sister and I dubbed it “perfect soup weather.”
This year, we’ve decided that we want to make quite a few different soups, so expect soup recipes over the next few months. Since today’s been one of those nice gray coldish days, I made one of the easiest and tastiest soups I’ve ever made — chicken and rice soup. Now, when I first started making this soup, I made it like my mother and sister — I boiled the chicken, skimmed the fat off the broth (as much as possible), pulled the chicken off the bones and skin, and then went from there. The chicken always seemed bland and so easy to dry out, so I think I always over-seasoned. Earlier this year when it was still cold, I made the soup, but I stove-grilled the chicken first with some salt and pepper on it then cut it up into bite-sized pieces for soup. I started using the box/cartons of chicken broth (so much more flavor than canned), and I began to saute the celery and onion (later shallots — so much yummier) in butter before I added them to the soup. I’d determined that my next move for the soup was a more Ina Garten approach — roasting the chicken breasts (or whole chicken one of these days) instead of grilling them.
That’s what I did tonight, and on a whole, tonight’s was the BEST batch of chicken and rice soup I’ve ever made. I intend to keep improving it each time. After all, I want one of my favorite soups to be the kind that knocks people’s socks off in the winter. You won’t need socks. This soup will warm you to the core and keep you that way.
2-3 chicken breasts (or whole chicken) — roasted, cut into bite-sized pieces
Chicken broth, 1-2 32oz cartons (depending on how much you want to make)
Water, however much you feel you need to add to the broth
1 1/2 cups of rice, uncooked
2-3 stalks of celery, sliced small
2 shallots, chopped
3-4 tbsp butter
salt, pepper, poultry seasoning to taste
1. To roast the chicken, heat the oven to 400ºF. If you’re just using chicken breasts, whether still on the bone with skin or the boneless, skinless variety, rub down with butter or EVOO (I used butter for the flavor) and then add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning (or any other spices you might want, but keep them in mind with the rest of the soup — you don’t want clashing flavors). Put the chicken breasts on a cookie sheet with aluminum foil on it (or in a small casserole pan). Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Take out, let sit until cooled off so that it’s easier to cut up. Obviously, you want to do this with larger chicken breasts or else that amount of time will dry out the meat.
2. After the chicken cooks, prep your other ingredients. Pour the broth (and any water if you use it) into your stock pot and start to heat up. Cut up your celery, shallots, and chicken and set aside.
3. In a small pan, melt the butter and then add the celery and shallots. Saute until the vegetables are soft but not brown. Add them into the broth. Don’t worry if the remaining butter goes into the soup. It adds to the flavor and makes it richer.
4. Add in the chicken. Stir for 2-4 minutes to allow the chicken to absorb the flavor of the broth. Add in salt, pepper, poultry seasoning here. Add to taste. After you’ve given the chicken time to heat up and take on the other flavors, add in your uncooked rice. Pour it in and stir. It’ll mostly sink to the bottom. This is fine.
5. When the broth starts into a rolling boil, lower the heat just one or two notches on the dial (if that), cover, and cook for 20 minutes. The rice will be done, and it’ll be ready to eat.
As a note, when I was in high school, I hated eating a lot of breakfast food for breakfast before school. Anything like pancakes were too sweet and heavy, and I didn’t really take time usually for eggs and toast. My sister made huge pots of chicken and rice soup that we could eat on for days. I started ladling out bowls that I could heat up in the microwave in no time, and that’s what I’d eat for breakfast. It was filling without being heavy or gross. It was the best thing ever, and it still is!