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This is the perfect warming winter soup. The recipe comes from Charlie Trotter and I decided to make this soup again recently as a tribute to him. He was a brilliantly talented chef who suddenly passed away last month. My husband and I visited his namesake restaurant in Chicago almost seven years ago, and I remember being awestruck by my surroundings. It was the first time I had eaten in a restaurant that required dinner jackets! We felt a little out of place, but the service was warm and informal (a nice contrast to the setting), so we were soon at ease. The food was amazing, each course more beautiful than the last, with flavor combinations that were both unique and familiar. It was a meal we would remember for a long time to come.

This wild rice onion soup is a typical example of the way Trotter put recipes together. There are not too many ingredients – it’s really just rice and onions, which doesn’t sound too enticing. The onions cook for a long time over low heat, drawing out their sweetness. The flavors are delicate, and there’s a lovely contrast in textures from the chewy wild rice, tender onions, and crispy toast croutons. The blue cheese is the perfect cherry on top. I LOVE blue cheese, but I know it’s an acquired taste. If it’s not your thing, try another soft and not-too-sharp cheese instead. I can’t promise the results will be as good, though.

Wild Rice and Onion Soup with Blue Cheese Croutons

Recipe from Charlie Trotter via The New York Times

Serves 4

1/2 cup wild rice, uncooked
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds (about 4) Vidalia onions, or other sweet onions, quartered and very thinly sliced
6 cups vegetable stock
¾ cup chopped herbs (use any combination of basil, chives, parsley, tarragon, thyme, etc)
Salt and pepper
8 slices baguette
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces blue cheese, at room temperature

Cook the wild rice in a small saucepan according to package directions. Usually, 2 cups of water is the amount needed for 1/2 cup wild rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a very low simmer and cover the pot. Let it cook, undisturbed, until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 50 to 55 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in the bottom of a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over moderately low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and season the onions with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 25 minutes, until they are tender, limp and sweet. Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Wrap the herbs in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Drop it into the soup and simmer an additional 10 minutes or so. Remove the bundle carefully. Adjust seasonings with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with oil. Bake on a baking sheet until light golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. While the croutons are still warm, spread them with blue cheese.

To serve, divide the rice among four bowls, and ladle broth and onions on top. Float two croutons in the center of each bowl, and sprinkle with more pepper. Eat immediately.