This soup is a big hit with my six-year-old -- she begs me to make it at least twice a month. A simple but hearty chicken soup that packs a healthy punch with fresh veggies, swiss chard, wild rice, and orecchiette pasta. I like to use all-organic ingredients, but are sure your family will love this however you choose to prepare it. Add a thick chunk of crusty bread and dinner is served!
Place all stock ingredients in large pot. Water should cover chicken by at least 2x. Bring to a boil. Make sure chicken is free-floating and hasn't stuck to the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer slowly until chicken is very tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on chicken size. Skim foam & fat from top periodically.
While stock cooks, prepare wild rice. In medium saucepan, combine rinsed wild rice* water and salt (optional). Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low simmer and cover tightly. Simmer approximately 30-40 minutes, or until all water is absorbed. Rice should begin to curl & will fully curl in the finished soup.
* I use hand-picked Minnesota "broken" style wild rice, which is my favorite. I lived in Minnesota for several years, and still order my hand-picked rice from www.christmaspoint.com (I have no affilliation). You can use the store-bought version (very dark, shiny kernels) but you should cook that longer, perhaps 45-55 minutes BEFORE adding to the soup.
When chicken is done, remove bird to platter to cool slightly. Strain broth through fine mesh strainer and discard vegetables & bay leaves. Allow broth to settle and spoon off as much remaining fat as possible.
Return de-fatted broth to stock pot. Pick chicken & chop or shred into bite-sized pieces. Add meat, sliced carrots, celery, onion, swiss chard and cooked wild rice to the broth and return to simmer until all veggies are soft. Add salt to taste. I typically add 2-3 teaspoons of salt, but this is individual preference. Too salty is -- well -- too salty, and this soup has a lot of great flavors you won't want to hide.
The final step depends on how many people you're serving and your preference. If the whole pot will be consumed at once, you can raise the heat, add the orecchiette directly to the pot, and cook until it's ready (usually 10-12 minutes, depending on pasta brand). Most often, I'll cook the orecchiette in a seperate pan and rinse to cool. I'll add pasta to each bowl & ladle soup over individually. If you add the pasta to the hot soup and allow to cool, the orecchiette can become quite large and soft -- which you might like. I prefer the pasta remain al dente.
If desired, garnish with a little fresh-grated parmesan cheese and serve with big slices of hot crusty french or italian bread. It's a great meal on a cool evening. Enjoy & be sure to let me know what you think!