Chicken With Brown Rice & Leeks

Fast simple hearty soup that eats like a complete meal. 

2 Tbs Olive Oil

1/2 Cup White Wine
2 Quarts of Chicken Stock
3 Large Leeks
1 Cup Uncooked Brown Rice
2 Large Chicken Breasts

Leeks tend to pick-up bits of grit and sand as they sprout from the soil and need to be cleaned thoroughly. Start by trimming away the inedible tops and the root bottom. Splint the leeks length wise and then slice the halves about 1/4 inch wide. Place the cut leeks in a colander an rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain.

In your favorite straight sided sautee pan add and heat the pan on high heat. When the pan is hot add your leeks.Stirring occasionally let the leeks cook until they start to get a little brown on some of the edges and are tender all the way through, about 5-7 minutes depending on the quantity. Without lowering the heat add the wine. Stir occasionally and cook until about half the wine is reduced away.

Prepare the chicken breasts by trimming away any fat and connective tissue and then cutting them in half horizontally so that you have 2 pieces form each breast about 1/2 - 3/4" thick. 

In a heavy skillet on high heat add enough oil, (canola is my preference)  to just coat the bottom of the pan. When the pan and oil are hot start adding your chicken breasts. Cook each side about 3 minutes until chicken is cooked through and there is a nice golden brown crust on each side. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked. 

Let the chicken rest at least 5 minutes and then slice lengthwise into about 1/3 inch strips and then cut those in half or thirds. Allowing the breasts to rest before slicing them up will stop the juices from running out on your cutting board and will help retain flavor.

In a five quart pot add the leeks and the remaining liquid they were cooked in along with the chicken stock, chicken and the uncooked rice. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to medium and cook for 15-20 minutes until rice is tender.

If you feel the soup is too thick and would like more liquid add a cup of water or more stock to thin.

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

There's a chill in the air and the leaves have begun the journey from the branches to the ground as the days grow shorter. A sense of melancholy begins to wash over the sun worshipers of summer as we prepare for the cold dark winter. The arrival of the season's first frost brings two things to mind and they're not doom and gloom, they're Soup and Squash!

Back in 1966 a Scottish singer\songwriter named Donavon called it the Season of the Witch and like Donavon when I look out my window there are many sights to see. Big bright orange pumpkins, wavy dark green acorn, pale yellow spaghetti and the beige stretched bell of the Butternut. Squashes all!

Few things in the produce aisle evoke more confusion, fear and outright avoidance then the winter squashes. The squashes of summer are fun, familiar and friendly. Zucchini's baked in breads and quiches. Sauteed, grilled, roasted, battered and fried we love them.

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash
Winter squash on the other hand is unfamiliar ground with the exception of the pumpkin which is either the subject of ritual mutilation or baked into pies. Almost without exception starting in early fall I hear the same question on my forays to the supermarket, "Excuse me, but what are those and what do you do with them?" To which I reply with a decided sense of squash swagger "They're butternut squash and I eat them!"

You might think that pointing out that I eat a given produce would end with the recipient of my snooty response turning on his or her respective heal and mumbling to themselves about what a jerk I am but you would be wrong. A look of surprise crosses their faces as they each utter the same one word, REALLY! Not the back at you wiseguy kind of really, but a genuinely surprised really.

The butternut squash is similar to the pumpkin in texture and flavor which is slightly sweet and mildly nutty and can and often is substituted for pumpkin in pie making mostly because they are easier to handle, size wise. Like pumpkins you don't eat the skin but you can roast and eat the seeds if you like.

Bisque is a rich, creamy well seasoned style of soup that has its' roots in french cuisine and sounds more imposing then it is to make. So rest assured there is no reason to run screaming from the room if both butternut squash and bisque are Greek or in this case French to you.

2 Average Size Butternut Squash
2 Quarts of Chicken Stock
2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
2 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
1 Bay Leaf
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

Optional Ingredients:
Heavy Cream or Roux

Begin by cutting the stem and bottom off your squash and then peel them with an regular vegetable peeler as the skin is not very thick or tough. Once the are peeled cut them in two lengthwise and remove the seeds. Remember the seeds can be roasted and eaten just like pumpkin seeds. Cut the halves into 3/4" pieces and place them on a cookie sheet to bake in a 375 degree oven until then are fork tender.

Some of you are thinking, do I have to roast them in the oven? The answer is if you want Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque you do! However if you just want ordinary Butternut squash bisque you can follow the instructions above and just boil them until tender. BUT and that's a BIG BUT, you will not have that smokey quality that comes with roasting.

While the squash is roasting add the 2 quarts of chicken stock to a five quart pot and on medium\high heat add the bay leaf, salt, rosemary and thyme. I like to use a piece of kitchen string to tie by rosemary and thyme together in what is called a Bouquet Garni which is a sophisticated bundle of herbs with a french accent and sounds very impressive. Mostly it makes it easy to remove later.

Place the tender squash in a blender or food processor along with some chicken stock. The amount of stock depends on what your blender or food processor is going to need to allow you to puree the squash. Before adding the puree to the pot with the remaining stock remove the bouquet garni and the bay leaf as they have done their work and are no longer needed.

Cook on low heat for 15-20 to allow the bisque to thicken. Stir in the cayenne pepper 1/8 tsp at a time and sample the bisque and continue to add remaining until it is either all in or spicy enough for your taste.

Optionally at this point you can add either the heavy cream or roux to the bisque to thicken. Continue to on heat for an additional five minutes and serve, refrigerate or freeze.