My winter wish came true, and we got a few good snow days in before spring. Sadly, we also got colds. What is it with a cold that makes it linger so long? As usual, I turned to comfort foods to make us feel better, and this soup was one of them. A change of pace from chicken noodle soup, this soup has a creamy base and is filled with wild rice and crisp bacon.
Soups have been showing up pretty regularly on our weekly menus this winter. They’re hearty, warm and comforting – everything I could want in a winter meal. This one was insanely good, but I will admit to not being totally focused on enjoying it the first night we had it. Clara has been in an independent phase for a while now, and that often translates into her not wanting help with eating. This usually isn’t a problem, but she sometimes struggles with using utensils. It’s hard to know how much of that is just normal development and how much is a result of her thumb hypoplasia. We usually just tell her to use her fingers, which she does quite well, but obviously that doesn’t work with some foods.
Maybe it’s because her birthday is coming up, or maybe it’s because I have so many friends that have had babies recently, but everything we experienced with her in the first several months of her life has been at the forefront of my mind lately. It hits me at different times – in this case, it was watching her eat this soup. Most days, I don’t even think about her thumb hypoplasia because it’s just a part of who she is. For some reason, though, I was already thinking about it before we even sat down for dinner that night. She was actually doing a pretty good job, considering this soup is on the thinner side, but I don’t think she was going as fast as she would’ve liked, and that frustrated her. It must be hard being a toddler – stuck somewhere in between wanting to be independent and still needing Mommy and Daddy’s help.
Parenting is a tough world to navigate, and I imagine Clara feels the same way about toddlerhood. It’s nice to have things we can count on, and good food is certainly one of them. If I find myself feeling too distracted or emotional, making a meal centers me. The sizzle of the bacon, the smell of melted butter and vegetables, the way flour and cream make this soup velvety smooth. I cook so we can eat, obviously, but sometimes cooking and eating are about so much more than nourishing our bodies; they also nourish our minds and our hearts.
4 strips bacon, chopped
1½ tablespoons butter
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken broth
⅔ cup uncooked wild rice
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
¼ cup flour
2 cups half and half or cream
Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Discard all but about 2 teaspoons of the bacon fat.
Add the butter to the remaining bacon fat and melt. Add the carrots, celery, onion, thyme and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the bay leaf, chicken broth and rice. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender with a slight bite.
Stir in the chicken and continue cooking, uncovered, for about 5 more minutes. While the chicken is warming, whisk together the flour and half and half. Pour the mixture into the pot and continue cooking over medium heat until the soup has thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Stir in the bacon and serve immediately.