We all have childhood dishes we’ll never stop loving. For my best friend, it’s her father’s swedish meatballs with broken cream (I’ve had them, they’re life changing). For my aunt, it’s my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings (hard dumplings, the only way to live). This soup might just be mine — I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember.
My mother is an avid golfer, and this was the signature soup of her country club. I don’t golf — never have. In St. Louis it’s just too hot to spend the summers chasing a little white ball all over creation, if you ask me. Back then, nobody did. When we went to the club for dinner, I could feel my eyes glaze over the minute we sat down and the conversation turned to the highlights of the course that day. I would strap in, open my book and order this soup. And perhaps a quart of it to-go, so I could feed off of it for a few more days when we got home.
I transplanted to Minnesota as an adult, and the minute I tried the beautiful, hand-harvested wild rice that we are fortunate enough to have access to here* I knew I had to figure out how to make this soup. Not that there aren’t plenty of creamy MN wild rice soups up here — there are, and they’re all delicious. Most include chicken, some have mushrooms (my favorite local ones tend to feature both), and toasted sliced almonds scattered through for a lovely, unexpected crunch. All of them include copious amounts of heavy cream. The ones I’ve had so far are all quite tasty, they’re just not…this soup. Maybe it’s the mixture of smoked turkey and ham, maybe it’s the way the wild rice soaks up the cream and tastes even better the next day. Maybe it’s just a classic case of food nostalgia… but if you ask me, some mysteries are better left unsolved and just enjoyed with a basket of bread.
*Wild rice is available in most supermarkets these days, and definitely online. It cooks differently than other rice (mainly because it isn’t technically rice at all, but rather a long-grain marsh grass), and takes longer. Because the product can differ based on where it was produced, ultimately you should follow the package instructions for the brand of wild rice you’ve purchased. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s tender but chewy and most but not all of the liquid has been absorbed.
Minnesota Wild Rice Soup
Adapted from Glen Echo CC
2 cups wild rice
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, or other neutral cooking oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ lb smoked turkey, pulled or sliced ½” thick, diced
½ lb ham, sliced ½” thick, diced
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry skillet until golden and fragrant
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
First, prepare the rice. In a large pot, bring 6 cups of the chicken stock to a boil. Meanwhile, using a wire mesh strainer, rinse the rice under cold water. Add it to the stock and stir. Once it returns to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, remove the rice to a large bowl. Make sure to get every last grain, or they’ll stick and burn as we build the rest of the soup.
Place the pot back over the burner and adjust the heat to medium. Add the oil and heat for 1 minute. Add the onion and celery and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the turkey and ham and stir well to combine. Saute and additional 2-3 minutes, until the meat is fully heated through. Add the last 2 cups of stock and the cream. Return the rice to the pot and stir well to combine. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer, then turn down the heat slightly and simmer gently until the rice is tender, 10-15 minutes. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed,
Serves 6 as a main course
Soup can be frozen for up to 1 month — feel free to loosen it up with some stock or half-n-half when reheating.