Who turned off the lights?
That’s the question I want to ask at about 5:00 PM every day in the weeks that follow the end of Daylight Savings Time. And I’m not the only one asking. The kids are genuinely confused as to how their afternoons end so abruptly with the sudden onset of night. Not twilight, with its languid transition into a gentle evening. But inky dark night. You know — the “one minute we were playing, and the next minute we couldn’t see anything because it was so dark” time of the year. It’s enough to make a body want to hibernate.
And so it was this past Saturday. Hibernation mode was in high gear as my typically-motivated meal preparation just kind-of fizzled. And with a refrigerator full of produce from our CSA and a morning stop at the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market (it was sunny when we got there a little before noon!), I was feeling somewhat guilty to boot.
Enter my husband, who had put in some pretty long hours in his home office. He must have felt those wearying effects of reduced daylight as well. His dinner request: something light but comforting.
Light but comforting. Hey, I can do that. I can even do that in my sleep…which came pretty close to describing my state of mind at that particular moment. Then the wheels started turning and visions of chicken soup danced in my head. No better use for the lovely leeks and mushrooms I’d picked up earlier in the day, or for the leftover baked chicken from Friday night’s dinner party, or the fresh carrots and garlic from Cherry Grove Organic Farm, and the parsley and thyme that are still growing in the garden. Genius.
I love it when a plan comes together, and this one was like a dream. The total prep and cooking time took little more than half an hour, dishes and clean-up were kept to a minimum (one pot plus cutting board), and the kids and I were back on the couch watching a Saturday night flick in no time at all. And really, if you’ve got a long, chilly night ahead of you…doesn’t that sound just about perfect?
For your own perfect chicken and rice soup, check out this recipe:
Chicken & Rice Soup with Leeks, Mushrooms and Carrots
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large leek, split down the center and well washed with the white and light green parts sliced into thin half-moon slivers
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
5 – 6 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced (from roughly 1/2 pint of mushrooms)
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups chicken stock (homemade if you have it)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves removed from stalk
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup of brown rice, cooked and kept warm (if you don’t have brown rice, or just don’t like it, use white rice…but we liked the earthy/nuttiness of the brown rice in this dish)
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
Begin by melting the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the slivered leeks and a pinch of Kosher salt and sauté for 3 – 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the carrots and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes, until the carrots soften. Add the mushrooms and sauté for another 3 – 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften. Add the minced garlic clove and sauté for another minute, until fragrant.
Add the chicken stock, bay leaves and thyme leaves and bring to a low simmer. Add the shredded cooked chicken. Cook soup for 15 – 20 minutes, reducing the heat if the soup begins to boil rapidly — it should be kept at a simmer.
Correct for seasonings and add salt and freshly-ground black pepper as needed.
Serve by spooning about 1/2 cup cooked brown rice into a bowl and ladling soup over the rice. Finish with about 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley.
Parent rating: Four-and-a-half stars. This is a warming soup that, as my husband said, really hit the spot. It’s not easy for a soup to be both comforting and light, but this one is. Somehow reminiscent of childhood, it has just enough tooth and earthiness to satisfy on a cold autumn night, but still has a purity of flavor that isn’t too aggressive. It’s the kind of soup that leaves you saying “ahhhh” after you’ve finished your bowl.
Kid rating: Four stars. It took a little coaxing but both Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 confessed to really liking this soup. They slurped the broth and easily nibbled their way through the chicken chunks and carrots. They didn’t even notice the leeks and ate those up too. And I snuck a couple of mushrooms into their bowls to see if they would try them…which they did without even knowing it. Their portions did not include parsley…they just aren’t into it. But hopefully someday they will be, because in my opinion, this soup just isn’t the same without it. Bellies full, we finished the night watching Monsters U over a big bowl of popcorn. Now, that’s a weekend!