A few weeks ago, I was half listening to Giada DeLaurentis prepare a chicken soup recipe on TV. Craig was watching it while on his exercise bicycle and I was in the kitchen doing something else. I picked up her basics and adapted them into this recipe, which bears only slight resemblance. Giada introduced me to a seasoning mixture called Herbs de Provence. I’m going to mix up a batch to keep in my spice cupboard one of these days. Since I didn’t have any on hand the day I made this soup, I selected fennel seed and fresh thyme as the flavors I most wanted to feature and just went with them. This turned out to be a great idea and this rotisserie chicken soup got rave reviews.
This recipe makes a very large pot of soup. Make it when you’re feeding a crowd, want lots of leftovers, or intend to freeze in portions for the next cold day. It will last in your fridge for about 3 days before it starts to look cloudy and the rice is too mushy. I made this much because my neighbors had just returned home from a 3-week ordeal in Memphis involving a car accident, leg surgery that included plates, pins, and screws, and way too much hospital food. Taking in their mail every day just didn’t seem like a big enough gesture to welcome them back to their home. Chicken soup was totally the ticket! It was easy to just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and shred it, having removed the skin. I collect the chicken carcasses and freeze them, too. There’s some great homemade stock just waiting to happen! For the rice component, I used a beautiful blend I’d picked up at Whole Foods. Since I got it from the bulk bins, I don’t remember the name. For this recipe, I recommend using a rice that will cook in under 30 minutes, which leaves out some brown and wild varieties. If you do prefer to use those, simply cook the rice separately and add it with the last batch of ingredients. I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you make the soup.
4-5 medium carrots, sliced into coins
5 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 large onion chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 large shallots, finely chopped
1 rotisserie chicken (I like lemon pepper flavor), skinned and shredded
1 TBS fennel seeds, crushed (just to release flavor — don’t powder them)
1 tsp dried basil
8 cups chicken broth or stock
4 cups water
1 bundle fresh thyme (about 8 3-4 inch sprigs, tied with butcher’s twine or with another sprig)
1 cup uncooked rice (I prefer basmati)
1 can cannelini beans, with canning liquid
1 6-oz jar sliced mushrooms, drained (I use Green Giant)
10-oz bag of fresh baby spinach (or chopped fresh kale)
In a large stock pot, saute the carrots, celery, pepper, onion, garlic, and shallots in 3 TBS olive oil until tender and fragrant, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the shredded chicken, fennel seeds, basil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper and continue to cook 2 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, water, thyme bundle, and rice. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans, mushrooms, and spinach (or kale) and simmer 5-10 more minutes. If you used low sodium chicken stock, you’ll need significantly more salt at this point. I prefer to keep my soups low-sodium and let the other seasonings do the heavy lifting. This is the point where you’ll want to taste and adjust. Remove the thyme bundle before serving.
This soup is fairly hearty, and thickens further in your refrigerator overnight. The flavors also marry nicely if you can resist eating it until the next day. It’ll look almost like a stew and you may think you don’t have enough broth, but don’t add more. It heats to the right consistency. Thyme and fennel notes should be noticeable but not overbearing. For a real twist, consider squeezing a wedge of lemon into your bowl.
Your Daily Bread
John 10:22 Then the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 Jesus was walking in the temple complex in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and asked, “How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 “I did tell you and you don’t believe,” Jesus answered them. “The works that I do in My Father’s name testify about Me. 26 But you don’t believe because you are not My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”