When skies are a leaden gray and heavy snowflakes begin to fall, I head to the kitchen to make soup. I’m convinced that soup is the original comfort food, not just as a hug from my own childhood, but from all the generations of women in my family that cooked in kitchens before me.
For generations, soup has been an efficient peasant food; a way to cook up scraps of vegetables, meat or fish in a broth, and frequently stretched with legumes, pasta, bread, rice or whole grains. Ribollita from Italy comes to mind, as does a Hungarian goulash made with meat, potatoes and noodles. Gradually more refined soups evolved with bisques and pureed soups, both of which I love too, but when I’m looking for a soup to warm my body and soul, I steer myself to more rustic fare.
I made this soup yesterday as a gift for a friend who is ill, in the hopes it would fill her with healing warmth, and made some extra for my husband and me to enjoy by the fire last night, while we watched the snow quietly drift down.
- There’s a bit of prepping to do for this soup, but it comes together quickly, and some prepping can be done while the soup simmers on the stove.
- To save time, I buy a whole roasted chicken at my local market for this soup.
- Other grains can be substituted for the rice. I’ve made this soup using quinoa with great success.
Chicken Rice Peasant Soup
Serves 8 – 10 people
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts, thoroughly washed, and thinly sliced
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 1 serrano chili, seeded, minced
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 small carrot
- 12 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled, diced
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon sea salt)
- 2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup uncooked rice, well rinsed
- 1 avocado, mashed
- Juice from 2 limes
- 1/2 cup Pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish, grated
- 1 1/2 cup shredded roast chicken from 2 chicken breasts, retaining the bones of the chicken
- 2 teaspoon dry sherry
- Warm up the olive oil in a heavy, large pot suitable for making soup, over medium-high heat. Add the onions, leek, shallots, chili, celery and carrot, and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the potatoes, fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and rice. Add the bones from the chicken that the cooked breast meat was removed from. Stir in the mashed avocado and lime juice. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the Pecorino cheese and roasted chicken, and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Stir in the sherry.
- Serve piping hot in soup bowls with a salad and hunk of crusty bread on the side.