Beef, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

The slow cooked meal is such a wonderful convenience in all seasons. While at first thought, it seems that it is best served during the winter months as the slow cooker rewards you with hearty stews and belly-warming chilis, it can definitely be a summer blessing as well. An oven or even a simmering pot on the stove can make the kitchen uncomfortably warm on an already warm day, and a slow cooker silently cooking away in the corner is an excellent alternative to using your kitchen towels to wipe sweat from your brows every two minutes.

This week, Amanda and I wanted to go low maintenance. I had some obligations on the day of our skype date so a set-it-and-forget-it recipe was just what the doctor ordered.  Since it was an unseasonably cold day, I did opt for a heartier beef soup but it could easily be enjoyed during warm weather as well. As stated above, the reduced use of heat emanating appliances would definitely make me more receptive to a soup in the middle of July for sure. Regardless, this soup was tasty, easy and made plenty of leftovers for weekday lunches.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1 inch chunks.
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas but you could branch out with varieties.
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick clices.
  • 1 onion, diced.
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions (I know. See if you can keep up with me here):

  1. If desired (and you will be rewarded in flavor), brown the beef over medium heat before adding to the slow cooker. However, if you’re like me and and feel that the point of the slow cooker is not to dirty any other pans, add all ingredients to the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Enjoy with your favorite crusty bread or however you would like!

Wine Pairing: The umami flavor of the mushrooms and the rich beefy taste can stand up to a full bodied red like a syrah, which would warm the belly and bring even more comfort to a dinner with this soup. 

Roasted Acorn Squash Bowl with Mushroom Risotto

Happy Thanksgiving! This holiday weekend has been full of much needed rest, family time, and good food! Our Thanksgiving meal tradition is turkey and canned cranberry sauce (as in the can-shaped cranberry sauce). Yum!

I’ve never made risotto, despite Merideth and I’s religious watching of Gordon Ramsay shows, and this seemed like a fun way to dress up Thanksgiving dinner! Risotto isn’t so much difficult as it is tedious a little, and this took about 30 minutes of active work to complete. However- it is probably one of my favorite dishes so far, and is so rich it could stand as a meal on its own. The squash bowl made the dish extra fun and savory!

For this, I used powdered porcini mushrooms from The Spice House of Chicago, and could be substituted for chopped mushrooms in the saute stage. This ingredient is optional, but I really enjoyed the depth of flavor the mushrooms added.

Ingredients

Squash Bowl

1 acorn squash, halved and with seeds removed

2 tbs butter

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tbs bourbon or whiskey (optional)

Risotto

1 small onion

3 cloves garlic

1 tbs powdered porcini mushrooms or 1/2 cup porcini mushrooms, chopped (optional)

3 tbs butter

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine (I have used Grüner Veltliner or Chardonnay)

6-8 cups chicken broth

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Squash Bowl

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in microwave and combine with brown sugar and bourbon.
  3. Brush butter mixture onto inside of squash and cook for 45-60 minutes, or until flesh can be pierced with fork.
  4. Once cooked, set aside.

Risotto

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan. Once melted, add chopped onions and minced garlic, as well as mushrooms or mushroom powder (if using). Cook until fragrant and onions become translucent.
  2. Warm chicken broth in separate saucepan.
  3. Stir rice into butter mixture, coating rice thoroughly. Cook rice for 3-5 minutes, or until edges of rice become translucent.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of wine to saucepan and stir to deglaze pan. Simmer until wine is absorbed.
  5. Add chicken broth one ladle at a time to rice, simmering and waiting until liquid is absorbed before adding more broth. Adding the broth gradually is key!
  6. Taste rice after about half of the broth has been added for proper consistency. Risotto should be the consistency of thick porridge, and broth will be absorbed more slowly.
  7. Add one final ladle of broth and the parmesan cheese to the risotto and stire until melted.
  8. Serve immediately in roasted acorn squash bowls.