Wild rice soup is ver­sa­tile and eas­ily adapted to any taste

The Buffalo News - - TASTE -

other en­ter­prise to ce­ment the soup’s pop­u­lar­ity. Not only was the su­per­mar­ket’s recipe pub­lished in Taste on a half-dozen oc­ca­sions – the first be­ing in 1980, shortly af­ter the store started sell­ing a heat-and-serve ver­sion – but a 1985 story noted that the com­pany was pro­duc­ing 40,000 gal­lons of wild rice soup each year for its restau­rants, deli coun­ters and freezer sec­tions.

Wild rice, by the way, isn’t ac­tu­ally rice. It’s the seed of a grass that thrives in marshes and pad­dies in north­ern Min­nesota, which means that, botan­i­cally, it isn’t re­ally a grain.

“In this con­text, we call it one,” said Julie Miller Jones, pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tion at St. Cather­ine Univer­sity in St. Paul, in a 2005 Taste story. “Foods are grains if they look, quack and act like grains. Wild rice has all the nu­tri­tional prop­er­ties of a grain.”

Best of the best

We’ve stitched to­gether el­e­ments from many of those Taste recipes to cre­ate what we think is a time­less ver­sion of wild rice soup, one where the star in­gre­di­ent’s ap­peal­ing virtues take cen­ter stage. Flex­i­bil­ity is one of this for­mula’s strong­est sell­ing points.

Want more wild rice? Add it. Don’t like car­rots? Leave them out. Crem­i­nis aren’t the only mush­rooms that work well; try oth­ers. In­stead of chicken, use turkey, ham or ba­con. Or duck, pheas­ant or goose. If you can find smoked ver­sions, so much the bet­ter (smoked white­fish or sal­mon are espe­cially good), be­cause that fire­side fla­vor goes hand in hand with wild rice.

Skip the an­i­mal pro­teins en­tirely and keep it veg­e­tar­ian – ten­der wild rice is enough of a star – or go vegan and drop the cream, sub­sti­tute olive oil or sun­flower oil for the but­ter and en­list a mush­room or veg­etable broth. Stir in spinach, broc­coli, as­para­gus or other fa­vorite green veg­etable.

I’m not a fan of those su­perthick, su­per-creamy wild rice soups – the dairy in­vari­ably smoth­ers the del­i­cate nut­ti­ness of the wild rice – so I re­moved the flour (and, in some recipes, corn­starch) and cut way back on the cream, leav­ing a bit in for body but not enough to turn it into a sa­vory melted sun­dae.

Many recipes used sherry, and a lot of it. For me, the im­pulse is right – this for­mula, even with just a small amount of cream, re­quires a splash of acid – but sherry felt over­bear­ing. I re­placed it with white wine, but white wine vine­gar works, too.

Over the years, many wild rice soup recipes in Taste stretched the recipe’s bound­aries by in­cor­po­rat­ing Cana­dian ba­con, pi­mento, clam juice, Tabasco sauce, roasted toma­toes, cream of mush­room soup, Worces­ter­shire sauce, cin­na­mon, pump­kin and other of­fk­il­ter in­gre­di­ents.

By the way, this soup is de­li­cious the next day, or the day af­ter. Just re­mem­ber that when re­heat­ing, add more chicken stock, as the wild rice will ab­sorb what­ever liq­uid is in the soup.

One fi­nal tip: When cook­ing wild rice why not use chicken stock in­stead of wa­ter? You’ll be layering in more fla­vor.

Oh, and if you can af­ford it, buy na­tive-har­vested, wood­parched wild rice. The fla­vor and tex­ture are far su­pe­rior to the com­mer­cially har­vested hy­brid ver­sion. You’ll also be sup­port­ing lo­cal agri­cul­ture, and giv­ing your soup a true taste of Min­nesota.

Just lis­ten to the sage words of Delores O’Brien. An Ojibwe liv­ing in Min­neapo­lis, she made this wild rice ob­ser­va­tion in a 1975 Taste story on na­tive foods.

“My mother used to make fish soup, us­ing the whole fish, head and all,” she said. “And of course she used to throw in some wild rice. All soups taste bet­ter with wild rice.”

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