Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shortcut chicken and rice soup

I love soups of all sorts.
And when I take the time to make soup, I usually make a big pot so I can have leftovers.
Then I put those leftovers in single serving portions in zip-top bags and put them in the freezer.

My trick for this is to freeze the bags flat. Then once they are frozen, I can stand them up or stack them or whatever. It makes them easier to fit in the freezer than misshapen frozen lumps in bags and seems to take less space than using several small bowls.

You can see what I mean HERE. The picture was from a cooking frenzy last year about this time.

So, to get back on track, my soup project this time was chicken and rice with veggies and a hint of lemon.

I have made the chicken soup from scratch in the past, starting with the chicken and roasting it and cooking down the bones for stock. So much work.

These days, I love a good shortcut.

So I used a cooked chicken from Whole Foods. It was a smoked chicken, so it gave the soup an extra layer of flavor, though a regular roasted or rotisserie chicken also works well.

I also used pre-shredded carrots from Trader Joe's and the low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth from Trader Joe's.

Oh, and in most of these recipes, when I say salt, I am using a fine-flake sea salt or kosher salt. And pepper is fresh ground black pepper.

Shortcut chicken and rice soup

3 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
10 ounce package shredded carrots (3-4 carrots depending on size if you get whole carrots)
2 cups celery, thinly sliced
1 cup white wine such as chardonnay
8 cups chicken broth (I like Trader Joe's low-fat, low-sodium, gluten-free)
1 whole, cooked chicken, meat removed from bones, roughly chopped (4 cups roasted chicken)
2-4 tbsp lemon juice, depending on your taste
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
3/4 cup arborio rice
salt and pepper

Heat oil or butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat, adding onion, carrots and celery.
Add dash of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
Cook with lid on for about 5 minutes until veggies soften, stirring and making sure they are cooking, but not really browning.
Add wine and cook another 5 minutes.
Add broth, chicken and lemon juice and cook until hot.
Add cilantro and arborio rice plus salt and pepper to taste.
Cook 20-30 minutes or until rice is done.

So I like lemon. A lot. I tried to temper that and make sure this soup was not too lemony. I think 4 tbsp is a good amount of lemon juice. But if you are not so big on the lemon, add 2 tbsp, taste it and add more until it has the amount of lemon that you like.

I also really like cilantro, but I know some people don't.
This would work well with Italian parsley as a substitute.

Same with the rice. I had arborio, which is normally used in risotto. So I used arborio.
Pretty much any rice would do. But I tend to like a sturdier rice like arborio. I think it stands up better to being cooked, frozen and reheated.
Or use some orzo pasta.

I like to cook the rice right in the soup instead of cooking it separately and adding it later because the starch in the rice helps thicken the broth a little.
So you end up with a brothy soup that is not thin. And it is packed with stuff.
Every bite has chicken and veggies.

Oh, and I got nine 1.5 cup servings out of this.