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Wild Rice Soup with Porcini and Escarole (Zuppa di Riso Selvatico)

Wild rice is not a traditional Italian food, but its earthy flavor goes beautifully with the other classic Italian ingredients in this fall soup. It makes a wonderful first course for Thanksgiving dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, steeped in 1 1/2 cups boiling water for 30 minutes 
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 2 small leeks, white and light green portions, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 lb. mixed fresh mushrooms, brushed cleaned and thinly sliced 
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 small head escarole, thinly sliced crosswise 
  • 1 1/2 cups wild rice blend (a mix of wild and brown rice) 
  • 6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade  
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley 

Directions:

Drain the porcini, reserving the liquid, then chop and set aside. Line a fine-mesh sieve with a damp paper towel and strain the mushroom broth into a clean bowl.

In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the fresh mushrooms and the porcini, and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.

Increase the heat to high, stir in the wine and simmer for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add the escarole, a handful at a time, stirring to mix well and adding more as the escarole in the pot begins to wilt. Pour in the reserved mushroom broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until all of the escarole is wilted and has begun to soften, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the wild rice blend and broth and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the rice is tender but still a bit chewy, about 45 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook until just heated through. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011).