Creamy Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

January. It's cold, it's dark, the holidays are over. This is the time of year when I have to reach deep to find my love of winter, when I have to replace my Christmas tree with an equal number of fairy lights, when I build fires and light candles and admit the below-zero temperatures do offer a compelling cryogenic nostril cleanse.

This is the time of year when I need soup.

And this soup fits the mid-winter bill. It features a creamy base, nutty, chewy wild rice, enough vegetables to feel virtuous without putting off the kids, chicken - and bacon. Because January demands bacon. And bacon makes all things better. Even, especially, winter.

Creamy Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
2 cups half and half
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
8-12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2-3 tbsp sherry

1. In a large saucepan, combine broth, water and wild rice. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer of 20 minutes. At that point, add the onion, celery and carrots, and simmer for another 20 minutes.
2. In a separate saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour to from a roux. Once the roux is bubbly and combined, slowly whisk in half and half and spices. Stir until smooth. Let it simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
3. Add white sauce mixture to wild rice mixture. Add chicken, bacon and sherry last, just before serving.

1. My kids find the sherry flavor in this soup off-putting. So feel free to leave it out. It's still good. But I do think it adds that extra something, that unnameable umami, that puts it over the top for most people.
2. You want to add more bacon? DO IT. It only makes the soup better.
3. You can substitute milk for the half and half. The soup will just be a little less creamy. I highly recommend the half and half, but if are stranded in a blizzard and you have everything else to make this soup but that one ingredient. Fine. You have my blessing to use milk.
4. If you shop at Costco, buy their packs of cut-up rotisserie chicken for the chicken in this recipe. It's cooked white meat, already in chunks. You just need to go through and cut it into bite-sized pieces, and cut off any skin or gristle that may have gotten mixed in when they were pulling the meat off the bones. Super easy.

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