Years and years ago, we were at an evening paddle party and our friend, Amy brought the most delicious soup to share for dinner. It was a soup she had enjoyed while skiing at Vail Mountain, specifically at Wildwood Smokehouse. She had procured the recipe from one of the chefs and brought her vacation home in her suitcase. Being a good friend who is not proprietary with her recipes, she happily shared it with me.
And then it proceeded to sit in my recipe drawer for nearly a decade, seeing the light of day maybe once or twice after its introduction. A few times a year, I sift through my recipe drawer that consists of print outs from the internet, magazine pages, hand written recipes on random pieces of paper, handouts from classes I’ve taken, including some from culinary school and even some post-its. I struggle to keep it all organized to be honest.
Sifting through the piles allows the opportunity for reflection about a time in my life when I either made something, was inspired to make something (and maybe never did – I’m looking at you rolled lamb stuffed with apricots and pine nuts) or was served a memorable dish from a family member or friend, the best kind. I almost never forget recipes, especially those that have been given to me. They are in the deep recesses of my mind somewhere. So while some of my recipes are hidden within the piles inside a drawer, they are never far away.
With the onset of cooler temperatures and soup season (although is it ever not soup season on some level?), my mind drifted to this long ago recipe and thought I should pull it out of hibernation and give it a try. It uses an ingredient I had never even heard of before, liquid smoke, to impart the smokiness that distinguishes the soup. The restaurant’s recipe says it often uses their own smoked chicken for the recipe as an alternative. Amy has since told me that she doesn’t use the liquid smoke in the recipe anymore so let’s call it optional. But it does distinguish the soup from others of similar nature, and you use less than a teaspoon so if you are curious I say give it a whirl.
The recipe as originally written is fairly involved and feeds an army. I’ve cut the recipe in half and used some short cuts (stock in a box and rotisserie chicken) to make it super easy to put together. Vegetables are sauteed in a combination of olive oil and butter until just tender, then mixed with some flour to create a roux. Stock is added, along with some dry seasonings, milk, a hint of the liquid smoke, shredded chicken and wild rice that has been cooked off. The mixture is simmered for about 20 minutes until thickened and then finished with a tablespoon of dry sherry and a touch of heavy cream, both of which are optional.
I’ve made the soup twice in the past two weeks. The first time I made it, I was out of some of the seasonings (marjoram, thyme and tarragon) so I used poultry seasoning, a catch-all, with fine results. You can too if you don’t want to buy lots of dried herbs. I also used 2% milk instead of the whole milk called for in the recipe. I thought it was delicious and so did my friend who was the recipient of some of the large batch.
The second time I made it, I did use the correct seasonings (the tarragon really is nice), and used whole milk and I have to say it was rich, creamy and comforting. Some things are meant to live as they were created. I added some fresh chives as a garnish, but you could use other herbs such as a touch of fresh tarragon or parsley – I will leave that up to you to decide!
And since so many are vegetarian these days, I was thinking about how this soup could actually be made as a butternut squash-wild rice soup instead. To do that, I would roast about 4 cups of 1/2 inch cubed butternut squash that you’ve tossed with just a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees until tender. Add them after the soup has finished simmering just to warm through. Use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock. I’m definitely going to try this out.
In any case, this soup is a great alternative to game day chili so I hope you give it a try sometime soon and let me know what you think.
Thank you to my friend, Amy S. for the recipe (and the friendship). xo