What's For Dinner: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup || A Less Processed Life

It appears that we have gone straight from bone-chilling temps to springtime up here in the Northwoods. And, though I'm excited by the prospect of spring (and flowers! and green grass! and leaves on trees!), it is kind of putting a damper on our sugaring hopes this season. D and I tapped 50 maple trees on Saturday–ok, well, I helped with, like, five of the pails–but we haven't seen much sap flowing.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup || A Less Processed Life

Ideal sugaring conditions are temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing during the night, which causes a pressure differential that allows the sap to flow. And, well, we kind of jumped to daytime highs in the 50s and lows in the upper 30s, which are far from ideal conditions.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup || A Less Processed Life

So, this year might be a bust, as I kind of doubt we'll get a long stretch of cold weather in. It seems like springtime conditions may be here to stay. Well, you live and you learn, and we'll be prepped for next year, when hopefully, we'll have better luck with the sugaring season.

While D was washing all our pails and tapping most of the trees, I was in the kitchen making a hearty soup for lunch. I saw this recipe for Wild Rice and Mushroom soup on a recent episode of America's Test Kitchen. Since we have a giant bag of local wild rice (that we harvested with some friends) in the pantry, I'm always looking for new wild rice recipes to try, and this soup sounded amazing.

This soup is not one of those 30-minute meals, although you could make the wild rice in advance. However, all of your effort will be greatly rewarded. The resulting soup is creamy, filling, and complex in flavor. The addition of lemon zest and fresh chives at the end gives it a fresh and bright flavor like no other wild rice soup I've tasted. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

For the wild rice:
4 cups water
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup wild rice

For the soup:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, ground fine in a spice grinder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup organic half-and-half
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium oven-proof sauce pot, combine together the water, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and baking powder and bring to a boil over hight heat. Add the wild rice and return to a boil. Cover and place in the oven. Bake for 35-50 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
3. Carefully strain the rice through a fine-mesh sieve into a 4-cup measuring cup, retaining the cooking liquid. Add water to the cooking liquid to reach a total of 3 cups. Discard the thyme, bay leaf, and garlic clove from the rice and set aside.
4. Add the butter to a Dutch oven and melt over high heat. Add the mushrooms, minced garlic, and chopped onion, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and browned, and a dark fond has developed on the bottom of the Dutch oven, 13-15 minutes.
5. Pour in the dry sherry and stir to scrape up the browned bits. Cook until almost completely dry, 3-5 minutes.
6. Stir in the vegetable broth, reserved cooking liquid from the rice, soy sauce, and ground shiitake mushrooms. Cover, and reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
7. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the soup and stir. Cook until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked rice, half-and-half, chives, and lemon zest. Cover, and let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

(lightly adapted from this America's Test Kitchen recipe)