I was in London over the holidays visiting my best friend. We ate our way through the city with fish and chips and proper English breakfasts made up of beans, fried eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and white toast. She and I even share a love of Pizza Hut and stopped by one for lunch. Yes, that's right, Pizza Hut. If you know me well, you know that it's one of my favorite places to eat and I am not ashamed. I am a self-proclaimed foodie and I love Pizza Hut. Hey, I never said I was a food snob. I just love their pan pizza. I grew up eating it and it's comfort food to me. And I only like Pizza Hut from a sit-down location. The pizza doesn't taste the same from those combination Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut stands that you see in airports and big cities. I like to call them Kentucky Taco Huts. Back to the point of this post and that's a new soup that I saw during my stay in London. I was in Marks + Spencer, a British department store that carries clothes and is a full grocery store as well. They have a massive prepared food section where you can find full meals that you heat and serve at home. Being so food obsessed, I volunteered to wander in the food section while my friend shopped for clothes.
I found myself in the soup section and saw one made with chicken, mushrooms and rice. I had never made a soup with rice so I was a little intrigued. Looking at the label, of course it was laden with cream and butter. I simply refuse to add cream to my soups. While it tastes really good, it just makes the soup really fattening. Kinda defeats the concept of soup, which I associate with being good and making a healthy choice. So as soon as got home, I decided to try making something similar but better.
I decided to use brown rice instead of white for added fiber and pureed part of the soup (mushrooms, cooked rice and broth) to make it rich and creamy without using cream. And instead of white button mushrooms, I used a mix of cremini and shitakes for more flavor. Here's how I made it.
1/2 red onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of olive oil
10 ounces of cremini mushrooms sliced (did you know creminis are just baby portobellos?)
5-6 ounces of shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, remove leaves from stems
1/2 cup of dry white wine (use only a wine you would drink, never cooking wine from a grocery store. Because you are reducing the wine, it's important to use a good tasting one because you are concentrating the flavors. If the wine tastes badly then whatever you are making will as well)
1 chicken leg/thigh, bone and skin on
1 chicken breast bone and skin on (you can use whatever chicken you like, whether it's boneless, skinless, all breast, etc.... I like using chicken on the bone because I think it keeps the meat moist and imparts great flavor into the soup)
4 cups of low-sodium organic chicken broth (I use low-sodium is because it allows me to control the amount of salt in my dish)
2 cups of cooked brown rice (cook the rice separately from the soup as it takes about 30-40 minutes and will absorb too much of the soup if you cook it together)
First, finely chop the onion and garlic and saute in olive oil in a large soup pot (I like to use a dutch oven). After 2-3 minutes, they should become translucent and softened. Add 1/3 of the mushrooms, stirring frequently until they begin to cook down. Add another third of the mushrooms, continuing to stir and cook and finally the last third and the thyme leaves. The reason why I don't throw in all of the mushrooms at once is that they will boil down instead of browning and developing a deep, rich flavor. After the mushrooms have released a lot of liquid (this will take about 7-9 minutes), turn off the heat of the stove and add in the white wine. Whenever you cook with alcohol, you need to be careful and make sure the heat/gas is off to prevent flames.
Turn the flame/burner back on to a medium heat to reduce the wine. Then season the mushroom mixture with salt and pepper. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes and add the chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper) to the pot. Add the chicken broth and season again with salt and pepper. It's important to season each layer as you cook so that your final dish is flavorful. Cover your pot and bring the soup to a boil. Once it comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat down to a simmer and keep it covered, cook for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
Remove the chicken and pull off the skin and discard. Shred all of the meat off the bones, using two forks. I like the texture of shredded chicken in soups more than sliced chicken. It just reminds me of homemade chicken noodle soup. Meanwhile, to thicken the soup, take a few ladles of the soup and mushrooms and pour into a blender. Add about 1-1 1/2 cups of the cooked brown rice and puree until smooth (don't include the chicken). Add it back into the pot, along with the remaining cooked rice and shredded chicken. Stir to combine and cook for another minute or two until everything is heated through. This makes about 4-5 servings. Enjoy!