Peanut Chicken and Rice Soup / by Chelsea Zwieg

I've been on a major soup kick lately. Me and everyone else in the world because I feel like every person I encounter only wants to talk about how it's jacket weather again or about how much they want soup. Well that or politics. I'LL TAKE SOUP TALK, THANKS. First up, was Lime Jalapeño Chicken Soup: forever and always a fave. Then last week I made this gumbo for the 900th time in my life and dare I say it was the best I ever made. And now, this spicy, peanuty, rice filled beauty. It's a soup filled life and I'm not even mad about it. 

This soup is a very, very adapted version of a west african peanut soup that I came across last winter. If the combination of tomatoes, peanut butter and hot sauce sounds more like the lunatic cravings of a pregnant lady than something you'd actually want for dinner just hold on. It doesn't taste like all of these weird things fighting it out in a bowl with some chicken and rice. The tomato paste and peanut butter come together to form a rich, thick and creamy broth that is so satisfying it just feels like it warms you from the inside out. And the hot sauce is just where all the fun comes in. You can adjust it to your taste, but I like to add lots. It's balanced out by the creaminess of the peanut butter but still leaves you with a little bit of heat after it's all said and done. Never in my life did I think these things should go together, but please, please just trust me. You will get it once you try it. And then you will be the one trying to convince everyone you know to make it through long, rambling paragraphs just like this one.

Normally I am an advocate for buying rotisserie chicken at the store and tossing it into the soup, which you can definitely still do here. But in this case, the time it takes the soup to simmer is just about the exact time it takes for the chicken to bake so I just go for it. Then you just shred it up, toss it in and go on your way. And, while I've never tried it (so please don't yell at me if I'm wrong), I think this would make a great slow cooker soup. The flavors only get better as it simmers and the chicken would cook right along in the soup. 

And if you've read this far, I trust you are the type to not get weirded out by weird ingredient combos. And I like you a lot. Now go make this soup! 

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Peanut Chicken and Rice Soup

Serves 4

| Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • chopped peanuts, opitonal

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 400. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. You can season them however you like, but I find it kind of pointless since they are going in a major flavor bomb of a soup. Bake the chicken 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. 

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are almost tender and the onions are beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the stock and stir, scraping up any onions or garlic that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a gentle boil. 

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste. Carefully scoop out 1-2 cups of the hot broth from the soup and add it to the bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture back into the soup and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the carrots are completely tender. Towards the end of cooking, stir in the hot sauce and juice of 1/2 a lime. 

Once the chicken has cooled, shred it with your fingers or two forks. Stir the chicken into the soup.

Prepare the rice according to the package directions. Once cooked, toss with juice of 1/2 lime and chopped cilantro. 

To serve, portion soup out into bowl and add a scoop of rice on top. Garnish with extra cilantro and chopped peanuts, if desired. You can also just stir the rice into the soup with the chicken, but I like it served to the side so that the cilantro lime flavor shines through and it's a little bit more like eating a stew. You do you.