Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Birthday Jeff!

Arrr, tis' that time o' the year again... tis' Jeff's birthday today, argh!

Sorry... I couldn't help it - Jeff's birthday just happens to fall on the official Talk Like a Pirate Day (which also happens to be some inside joke at his office with him)! I'm sure he'd love a full post of pirate speak, but I'd go crazy having to type it all out... so we'll just do a pirate themed birthday instead.

Anyway, Jeff has been asking for a creamy wild rice soup for some time now - so for his birthday dinner tonight, I made this Chicken and Ham Wild Rice Soup.

This creamy soup starts by melting a couple knobs of butter and tossing in a mirepoix to soften - this is just a fancy name for the combination of carrots, celery and onion. To help tighten the soup later on, a few tablespoons of flour are stirred into the vegetables and allowed to cook for a minute to remove that raw flour-y taste. Half-and-half, chicken broth and a shot of sherry to perk things up are stirred in, followed by cooked wild rice, shredded chicken and cubes of cooked ham. After the liquid dances and grooves in the pot for a few minutes to bring all the ingredients up to temperature, I tasted and added a bit of salt and fresh ground black pepper to enliven the flavor. While served in a soup bowl is certainly reasonable, to make this a bit more special, I carved out the innards of a crusty pretzel bread bowl and served the soup inside!

Using a combination of chicken broth and half-and-half blessed the soup with a voluptuous body, while still keeping it fairly light and flowing. The cooked ham added a salty and slightly smoky flavor while the chicken added extra protein and texture. Tender, yet chewy black grains of Minnesota-grown wild rice added to the hearty nature of this soup, also lending a distinctly nutty essence.

Wild rice, if you've never made it before, is cooked in a large volume of broth (or water) for a fairly long time - usually around 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the variety and size. Look for the cooked grains to just begin to split and puff open, exposing its translucent innards - too much longer after that and it can get a little mushy. To get the amount needed for this recipe, use roughly 1 cup of the dry grains. Wild rice is considered a whole grain - it is rich in fiber, protein, lysine and also has the benefit of being gluten free! Still not convinced you would like it? Try using mixture of half wild rice and half brown rice the next time you cook up a pot for a pilaf or side dish and see what you're missing!

And yes, he got some special treats too... we'll talk about those tomorrow though - here is a sneak peek!



    May you have many, many more. Enjoy our special day.

  2. Arrr! Avast, matey! Glad to see yer celebratin' TLAP Day -- and the birthday -- in fine style. Arrrr!


  3. Happy Birthday Jeff!

    Looks like you had a yummy dinner:)

  4. arrrr's to ee then on your special day... an' a shot o sherry doesn't count at all as grog, so ye'd best find a bottle of rum... ....

  5. Happy Birthday, Jeff!
    And darn it, Joe, that soup looks and sounds SO good and I LOVE the pretzel bread bowl! Awesome.

  6. Happy Birthday, Jeff! Enjoy that delicious soup.

  7. happy bday to jeff :) That pretzel bowl looks AWESOME!

  8. Happy birthday to Jeff! I've never seen pretzel bread bowls like that, they look great!

  9. Pretzel bread? I've never heard of this......

  10. First, Happy belated birthday, Jeff!

    Second, here's a pirate translator (for next yarr... I mean, year) -

    Third, does the wild rice absorb all the liquid in the soup in a couple of hours? This sounds like a wonderful make-ahead meal, but should I keep the rice segregated until serving time?

  11. Arggh! Those be lookin' like some mighty fine booty. Happy birthday!

  12. Quinn - we picked it up from a local market.

    June - when we had the leftovers, I didn't notice that the wild rice absorbed much extra liquid as it sat around!