Over the holidays there were oh so many gatherings. I made so many pies, tarts, cookies, and pastries that I started craving soups and salads left and right. A few of us gathered to watch holiday movies and I decided to bring soup instead of the usual holiday cookies. It went over rather well. We ate most of it right then and there, and I had enough for a couple of lunches too. This is hearty enough for lunch at the office and flavorful enough to serve to friends.
Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup with Bacon
1/2 cup dried shitake
1 cup wild rice (cook following label instructions)
3 fat slabs of pork belly or bacon
4 Tablespoons butter
1 leek, sliced into crescents
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 cups chopped mushrooms (any variety will do)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups broth + 2-3 cups water
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme (or a few sprigs)
Boil 1 cup of water and pour into a bowl with the dried mushrooms. Cover with a towel and set aside. Cook the wild rice according the label’s instructions. While rice is cooking and mushrooms are soaking, chop the bacon into little bits. Heat a large soup pot (you’ll be cooking everything in this same soup pot) and throw the chopped bacon in. Cook over medium-high heat until it’s completely cooked. Remove the bacon and set aside.
Turn the heat down to low-medium and add 2 Tablespoons of the butter. Scrape up the bits of brown from the bacon. Add the leek crescents and celery and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until just translucent. Add the mushrooms (both raw and those that are soaking and reserve the water) and garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.
Turn the heat to medium-high and add the red wine. Scrape up any brown bits sticking to the pot. Cook until reduced by about half. Add the 3 cups of broth, the thyme, the cooked rice, and then add about a cup of water and the reserved mushroom water, until the vegetables and rice are covered and appear as liquid-y as you’d like. Cook, partially covered for about 15 minutes. Taste for salt, pepper, and drop in another 2 Tablespoons of butter for extra flavor. If you used sprigs of thyme, remove the sticks now. Throw in the bacon now or as garnish and you’re good to go.