Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Host a fuss-free Friendsgiving that features a comforting bowl of chicken soup, a few easy side dishes and a holiday sangria.
Friendsgiving, a meal that is shared with friends just before or after the national holiday, is a newer celebration, and I’m grateful for it. Menus can be simple or elaborate, and this year, I’m going to have a “bowl” with friends. (Bad pun, but a good soup recipe will make up for that!)
With Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup as the main dish, I will have time to enjoy the company of friends. I’ll also make a simple Cranberry Sangria that’s perfect for kicking off the holiday season; it’s also a self-serve cocktail. The rest of the menu will feature salad, warm rolls and dessert brought in by guests.
According to Merriam-Webster, the earliest use of Friendsgiving was around 2007. When the term was used in 2011 as part of an ad campaign for Bailey’s Irish Cream and later incorporated into a story of Real Housewives of New Jersey (“Gobblefellas” was the episode), our awareness of Friendsgiving took a big upswing.
I’m hosting Friendsgiving for my movie-watching group the weekend before Thanksgiving. It’s an opportunity to gather ahead of all the holiday hoopla. It seems like after Thanksgiving, we’re all off and running; sometimes the holidays slip by without getting to see some of the most important people in your life.
So, in addition to an easy menu, I’ve planned an simple holiday craft we can do after the meal. We’ll watch a holiday movie while enjoying dessert before calling it an evening.
The great thing about this soup is it can be made an hour or so ahead of my guests gathering. I’ll keep the soup warm in a slow cooker, which also makes for easy serving. And sangria gets better the longer it sits in the refrigerator.
Let’s get cooking. For Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, you’ll need:
42 ounces reduced-sodium chicken broth (divided)
1 (6 ounce) package long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into ½-inch pieces
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 small onion, diced
¼ teaspoon dried sage
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups half-and-half
fresh sage leaves (optional garnish)
Start by setting aside ½ of chicken broth.
In a stock pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil, diced carrots, celery and onion. This is the mirepoix for your soup. I also peeled and diced some of the broccoli stalk for a flavor boost and added nutrition. When the onions start to turn translucent, add the dried sage and stir to coat the vegetables with herb. By toasting the sage this way, it’ll help bring out the flavors.
Add the cubed chicken breasts to the pot. When the chicken starts to turn white and you see some browning, add the remaining broth and the wild rice. Cover and bring this to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the broccoli florets and cook for about 15 minutes.
Stir flour into the reserved chicken broth. Add it to the soup, turn the heat up to medium-high again, and bring to a boil until the broth slightly thickens.
Reduce heat and add half-and-half, cooking until heated through (about 3 minutes).
This recipe will make 4 servings.
Can I use leftover turkey instead of chicken? Absolutely! If you’d doing your Friendsgiving after Thanksgiving, just cut up your turkey (about 1 pound) into ½-inch pieces. You'll probably want to add the cooked turkey at the last step to just heat it through.
Can I use frozen broccoli? Yes; use 1 (10-ounce) package of frozen chopped broccoli as a swap. You could also swap out one bag of frozen cut green beans for broccoli.
Can this soup be frozen. Wouldn't recommend it because there's cream in the soup. However, after the broccoli has cooked—maybe to al dente—you could cool the soup and freeze it at that point. After it thaws and you're ready to reheat the soup, finish the last steps to thicken and add the half-and-half at the end.
Another common component to a Friendsgiving is a cocktail (or two).
Every year, I usually buy a couple bottles of Missouri-made cranberry wine from St. James Winery. This wonderful sangria is made with oranges, pears, tart apples and fresh cranberries. When it’s time to serve, simply put the pitcher on your buffet or table with glasses and let your guests help themselves.
To make Cranberry Sangria, you’ll need:
1 bottle of cranberry wine
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup white cranberry juice
2 red apples (I like the Fuji apple for this)
2 green pears
2 navel oranges
2 rosemary sprigs
12 ounces non-alcoholic ginger beer
Rinse cranberries. Wash and dice the apples, oranges and pears. You could also dice the apples and pears and slice oranges—however you want the presentation to look. Layer the fruit—apples, oranges, pears and cranberries—laying rosemary sprigs on top.
Pour in wine and juice; allow at least 2 hours to chill in refrigerator. When ready to serve, add ginger beer and lightly stir. Optional garnish would be a couple of cranberries skewered on a rosemary sprig.
For guests who can’t drink, have an alternative on hand, such as sparkling apple cider.
Here’s the most important tip to Friendsgiving: Allow or invite your guests to bring a dish or drinks. But when your friend asks “What I can I bring,” don’t say “whatever you’d like.” That’s no help to either of you. Ask your friends to bring something specific, such as their favorite Thanksgiving pie for dessert, or an autumn salad.
Remember that being a good host doesn’t mean you have to do everything, but rather extending warm hospitality to everyone in your home. Be in the moment with your friends and family, which might be the most meaningful demonstration of gratitude we can give any time of the year.