Wild rice soup is versatile and easily adapted to any 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.”