While dinner sometimes needs to get on the table fast, cooking isn't always just about the end result for me. A lot of the time it's about satisfying strokes of the knife and the gentle stirs that get me to the end result. Some days it's barely about the destination at all, but rather the moments of scent, texture and touch in between that I crave. At this time of year especially I don't want to just make dinner. I want to make spoonfuls of warm comfort that nourish the bodies of the people in my life. It's not just about cooking. It's about nurture and gesture and love.
This hearty yet healthy soup warms the belly and feeds the soul. It starts with bacon, and anything that starts there has a pretty good chance of ending somewhere I want to be. The salty bits of bacon join tender pieces of chicken and brown rice simmered with vegetables and fresh herbs in chicken stock. This is simple, one-pot peasant food; a style of cooking that has stood time's test in part because it puts wholesome and healthsome at the heart of our homes.
Here's how I made it:
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 strips uncooked bacon, thinly sliced
2 uncooked chicken breasts, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups diced zucchini
1 cup diced carrot
3/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (I used a mixture of rosemary, thyme and oregano)
1 cup brown rice
4 cups (1 L) chicken stock
3 cups (750 mL) water
1 tsp salt
Warm a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon and chicken. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crispy and chicken is browned. Remove to a heat-proof bowl and set aside. To the pot, add zucchini, carrot, onion, celery and garlic. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften. Stir in herbs, rice, chicken stock, water and salt. Return bacon and chicken to pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes until rice is tender.