There’s nothing like a bowl of steaming chicken soup when you’re feeling under the weather, or even simply when fall turns to winter. But we wanted to transform this soup, often made with white rice or pasta and lacking in veggies, into a comforting, nutrient-dense meal.
We started by infusing our chicken broth with a megadose of garlic, before adding tender morsels of chicken. We tested our way through increasing amounts of garlic, starting with what we thought was a hefty amount — 2 tablespoons.
Much to our surprise and satisfaction, tasters rallied behind a whopping half cup of minced garlic, praising its bright yet balanced presence in our full-flavored soup.
Mincing and blooming the garlic before adding liquid gave it a toasty sweetness without having to roast it. To build flavor, we added aromatic vegetables, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste along with our chicken broth. To incorporate a whole grain, we opted for toothsome wild rice, cooking it directly in the soup to infuse it with garlicky flavor.
To keep our chicken tender, we simmered it during the last few minutes of cooking. Baby spinach and a generous amount of chopped parsley gave the soup a vegetal boost that complemented the deep garlic notes.
Garlic Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced garlic (about 25 cloves)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
1 celery rib, minced
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon no-salt-added tomato paste
6 cups unsalted chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2/3 cup wild rice, rinsed
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 ounces (3 cups) baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil and garlic in Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and add carrots, onion, celery, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in thyme and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in rice and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until rice is tender, 40 to 50 minutes.
Discard bay leaves. Reduce heat to low and stir in chicken and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and spinach is wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in parsley and season with pepper to taste. Serve.
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