Sunday, May 23, 2010

(Not) Chicken Soup with Rice

"In January it’s so nice
While slipping on the sliding ice
To sip (not) chicken soup with rice
Sipping once, sipping twice
Sipping chicken soup with rice."

When my two oldest children were small, they attended pre-school at the local YMCA (the youngest, who came along a little later, went to the JCC, a story I'll tell when I get around to making hamentashen). Each day, at clean-up time, the teachers put on a recording of Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street, who would sing about it being time to "pick up everything and put it away." At this point, a minor miracle would occur and the children would stop what they were doing and - you guessed it - put away their toys! (I've since learned that the song is, logically enough, called "Put It Away," and released on the 1971 album Havin' Fun with Ernie & Bert and the Muppets of Sesame Street.)

This routine held every day except for the monthly parent and child swim, which was a pretty big deal, and for which occasion the song was invariably Carole King singing "Chicken Soup with Rice." The song was written for Really Rosie, a film based on a collection of stories by the straight-up genius Maurice Sendak. The animated vignettes, drawn by Sendak and accompanied by King, included such classics as "Pierre," "One Was Johnny," the eponymous title of this post, and my personal favorite, "Alligators All Around," which is actually making me a little verklempt just thinking about it.


I'm not sure what the connection to swimming was, except that the locker room was always freezing cold (especially when trying to wriggle wet pre-schoolers back into their clothes), and anything hot sounded good, no matter what the season. Anyway, during a bout of the kind of horrendous seasonal allergies that are almost indistinguishable from the flu, I felt in need of something comforting, which led me to soup. Cultural signifiers being what they are, this led me to chicken soup, which led to the song, and thence to the kitchen and this restorative elixir.

The combination of herby broth, veggies, rice, and marinated soy curls makes even the gloomiest, snottiest afternoon a little brighter, and since the whole business comes together in under two hours, there is absolutely no excuse not to make it. (If you don't have access to soy curls, go ahead and substitute diced seitan or another vegan "chicken" product like Gardein, Beyond Meat, or TJ's; a 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas works, too! Just omit the marinating step and incorporate those spices and the extra broth into the recipe.)

I told you once, I told you twice
All seasons of the year are nice
For eating chicken soup with rice.

(Not) Chicken Soup with Rice
The "Chicken"
~ 2 cups soy curls, broken into bits (or preferred vegan chicken; see my note above)
~ 4 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1 tbsp. finely minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, dill,  parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: marjoram, sage
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 2 bay leaves

~ In a large beaker, combine the broth and seasonings, and add the soy curls.
~ Cover and bring to a boil in the microwave (or in a pot on the stove top). Allow to sit, covered, for at least 30 minutes; the longer the better.

The Other Stuff
~ 1 tbsp. each: olive oil, vegan margarine (you could use one or the other, I just like the combination)
~ 2 cups onion, chopped
~ 1 cup celery, large dice
~ 1.5 cup carrots, large dice
~ 1 tsp. salt (optional; I find the broth salty enough)
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 3/4 cup uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
~ 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
~ 1/2 cup white wine
~ 6-8 cups "no chicken" broth

~ In a large pot, heat the oil and margarine, and saute the onions and celery over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the carrots, salt, and pepper, and continue cooking about 10 minutes more.
~ While the vegetables are cooking, drain the soy curls, reserving the marinade for the soup.
~ Add the rice and the parsley to the vegetables and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
~ Add the drained soy curls, and cook a few minutes more, allowing them to brown just a bit. (If using a chicken substitute or chickpeas, add them now.)
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan and cook for about a minute, then begin slowly adding the reserved marinade and the additional broth.
~ Stir to combine, cover the pot, then raise the heat to high just long enough to bring the soup to a boil. Turn it back down to low, and allow to simmer for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to check if it needs more liquid.
~ Check to make sure the rice is cooked (it should be), fish out the bay leaves, and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
~ Serve hot in big bowls, with crusty bread. (Pro tip: this tastes best if eaten while wearing pajamas. Just a suggestion.)


  1. The soup sounds delish, Desdemona...but the song...the song takes me back. What a lovely childhood memory to have in my head this morning:
    Happy once, happy twice,
    Happy (not) chicken soup with rice."


  2. This sounds great. I'd been thinking of Chickpea Noodle Soup, but I think this might win instead. Soon.

  3. This is a great recipe! I've made it twice now and it hits the spot every time. Great flavor. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. I have made this numerous times with ALPHABET PASTA and it makes me feel like a little kid every time. The seasonings are great! I love this soup!

    1. Alphabet pasta would be perfect; I may try it that way myself next time!