This morning I got out of bed around 5am.
Less because I was up ambitiously early and more because I never really fell asleep.
I walked outside and sat on the edge of our second floor apartment in my pajamas. It was still mostly dark and already hot. Dogs barking, roosters crowing, old and young people walking down our alley, a few coming back from late night Christmas parties, most just headed home with little pastel plastic bags filled with their early morning market purchases. At 5am. It was noisy and alive and strangely peaceful.
PS. Meet my food photography assistant/saboteur.
I needed onions for my soup, but the grocery store wasn’t open at 5am so I made my way out into the world to the produce stand on our street. When I got downstairs, Romeo, our night security guard, set down his coffee and opened the gate for me as I walked out. A tricycle cab driver passed me with his first rider of the morning sitting in the side car next to him. Valentino, the elderly man who lives in a tin roof lean-to on the street corner and sleeps on a wooden bench and has one tooth in his whole mouth, smiled and waved sweetly at me.
The produce stand was out of onions. As I was walking away, I heard the owners – a mom and daughter – speaking Cebuano to each other and then suddenly the mother was running after me, happily holding out the remaining half of her own family’s tiny purple onion in a little pastel plastic bag, “no charge.”
I heard at least a hundred good mornings before I made it to the bake shop where I bought two plain sugar donuts for twenty cents. Packed in a little pastel plastic bag. Always. The tricycle cab driver, the same one, passed me on the street, stuffing one of three pieces of plain bread into his mouth as he pedaled, purchased with the coins from the morning’s first ride. I found another produce stand with piles of green onions and ginger and malunggay leaves on a table next to a rickety butcher’s knife and a piece of wood, wet with blood, fat, and flies, to the left of a slab of raw meat, sitting over buckets of very unclear water. I didn’t feel nauseous.
Actually, yes I did.
But I did a good job of hiding it and I bought the green onions for five cents.
Then I made this soup, and I missed talking with my mom in the kitchen while stirring our massive soup pot all day on Christmas Eve, and sitting for too long on the couch with my dad, everyone still in our pajamas, eating the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Instead, I dressed up a shepherd and had an entire orphanage over for dinner.
It was insane.
And the soup? They loved it.
This chicken bacon wild rice soup is thick and creamy and perfect for cold winter nights. All made from scratch, and super tasty!
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breast, cooked and shredded
- 1 ½ pounds bacon, cooked and crumbled, grease reserved
- 1 cup rinsed wild rice
- ½ cup green onions (or add sauteed garlic/onion)
- 3 10.75 oz cans cream of chicken soup (my mom uses chicken broth with less water)
- 5 cans water
- 5 tablespoons bacon grease
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt + 1/2 teaspoon pepper (more to taste)
- ¾ cup flour
- 2 cups half and half
- 3 cups milk
- additional water, milk, or broth for thinning
- Prep the chicken and bacon.
- Whisk the cream of chicken soup and water together in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add the green onions and wild rice and cook, covered, for 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to soak in pan, covered, for up to 1 hour (this is optional – just makes the consistency of the rice a little softer). There should still be a little bit of liquid in the pan at this point.
- In a large saucepan or skillet, melt the bacon grease and 2 tablespoons butter over low heat. Add the flour and salt and pepper and stir until a thick paste forms. Cook for 1 minute. Add the half and half and milk. Whisk until smooth and thick – about 5 minutes.
- Add the creamy mixture to the rice pan. Add the chicken and bacon and continue to cook over very low heat for at least 8 hours. You can also transfer the soup to a slow cooker and just keep it on low. Adjust the consistency to your preferences by adding more milk or water and whisking until smooth.
This soup will be very thick. To achieve the kind of consistency that you want, it’s important to thin it out gradually with water, milk, or broth – especially the leftovers as they thicken even more. To achieve the best flavor, you really need to let it cook for at least 8 hours. I know it’s a long time, but trust me – I sampled it at one hour and 8 hours and it tasted much better after the wait. We usually keep the seasonings pretty simple but adjust as you like!
I’m going to be taking some time off from Pinch of Yum over the holidays. In addition to playing with kids and their new Christmas presents and resting a little bit if the dogs will allow it, I’ll be doing some major recording of food photography video lessons and screencasts for Food Blogger Pro! Bad news – too tired to cook. Good news – fresh pad Thai takeout. I’ll send you pictures or something. We are really excited about sharing FBP with you guys in February!
So may your days be merry and bright, may we remember those who are hurting, and may your life be full this Christmas!