Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Italian Chicken Rice Soup

On Sunday night I was expecting dinner guests.  This particular group had the distinguishing characteristic of including a chef, a restaurateur, an artist, and various gluten-free, dairy-free, and tree nut allergic individuals.  All of these ingredients made coming up with a menu a slightly strenuous exercise.  But at last I had it down.

A melt-in-your-mouth brisket from America's Test Kitchen
Crash Hot Potatoes from The Pioneer Woman
Mixed Greens and Pear Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette
Various Breads from Flat Rock Village Bakery

Unlike other dubious times of entertaining, this time I was going to be relaxed and ready.  I had a menu, I had a schedule, I had a plan.  On Sunday afternoon all was going exactly to that plan.  Wood floors mopped, check.  Onions caramelized to a golden perfection, check.  Potatoes boiled and set aside, check.

I reached to put my marinated briskets into the oven and glanced once again at the recipe, just to make sure that 2 hours was the correct baking time.

And then I slowly went cold, head to toe.

The recipe read, "Bake 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until tender."  It was 4:00 pm.  Company was to arrive at 6:00.  A dinner hour of 7:30 to 8:00 was not a possibility with 8 school-aged kids involved.

So, with 2 hours, I must now come up with a new main dish that:

* went with my other side dishes
* appealed to my august group of trained palates and artistic sensibilities
* included no dairy, wheat or nuts
* could be ready in 1 1/2 hours (throw in a quick trip to the grocery store!!), and
* would cause me zero stress, since my stress level was threatening to enter the red zone.

A 5-minute glance through my tried and true recipes yielded only one recipe that would work . . . Italian Chicken Rice Soup.

The addition of any great spaghetti sauce gives this soup the flavor of having been simmered for hours.   My personal choice is Classico.

My company had no idea that the soup hastily slapped into two large tureens and served with freshly grated Parmesan was the product of 15 minutes of preparation, instead of my overnight-marinated, onion-caramelized, slow-baked brisket.

The soup was hearty, savory and amazingly comforting on a chilly winter night.

And when the evening was over, there was only one recipe requested by several guests . . .

Italian Chicken Rice Soup
49 1/2 ounces chicken broth
26 ounces meatless spaghetti sauce (I used Classico Tomato Basil)
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (I used a tablespoon of dried)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups cooked rice
1 teaspoon sugar

In a Dutch oven, combine the broth spaghetti sauce, chicken, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in rice and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, another 10 minutes or until heated through. Serve with a generous grating of mozzarella or Parmesan on top! Yield: 2 1/2 quarts

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