Monday, October 27, 2008

Thai Chicken Soup

I was watching America's Test Kitchen the other day (awesome show, if you've never seen it), and a relatively simple version of a dish that I enjoy a great deal came up. The cooks devised an easy and relatively quick method to make a Thai flavored soup without some of the key ingredients that can be difficult to locate - like kaffir lime leaves - unless you live right next to an international market of some kind. I decided to make the recipe, partly because it sounded delicious. but also because I had gone on a rampage making stock (chicken, vegetable...more to come shortly) and I needed to use some of it up. And, me being me of course, I doubled the recipe to ensure that it would feed the army of people I was cooking for (i.e. the hulking rugby player that my brother is) and of course, modified it slightly to include the rice noodles that would make the soup "heartier" (again, the brother...).

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4 stalks lemongrass
6 shallots
2 large bunches cilantro
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 cans coconut milk
6 cups chicken broth
1 lb white button mushrooms
6-7 chicken thighs, skinned and deboned (keep the bones for stock)
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 package rice noodles, about 1 lb (optional - you can use any style, I used wide ones however)

Utensils: several cutting boards; sharp chef's knife; very sharp boning knife; salad spinner; 2 large saucepans/pots;

Prep work: 1) Debone the chicken thighs - be very careful about not slicing off your fingers! - by first removing the skin/fat on the top, and then cutting the thigh meat down to the bone, and simultaneously pulling the meat away from the bone with one hand, and gently slicing it away using the knife with your other hand. If you do not feel comfortable deboning the thighs yourself, buy boneless skinless thighs, or substitute chicken breast. After deboning, slice the thigh meat into thin, even strips. 2) Wash cilantro in water and dry in the salad spinner. 3) Chop one bunch of cilantro, stems included, and set aside. Leave the other bunch for use as garnish. 4) Mince shallots. 5) Chop up lemongrass and thinly slice. 6) Juice limes (about 2).

Heat the saucepan up and add the oil to it. Saute the lemongrass stalks and shallots for about 2 minutes, then add the chopped cilantro and 2 tbsps of the fish sauce for about another 5-7 minutes. Stir in one can of coconut milk and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain the soup into the 2nd pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the second can of coconut milk and allow the bubbles to break the surface of the broth, then reduce the heat slightly. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the chicken and cook until down, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, and add the last 2 tbsps of fish sauce, the lime juice, and the Thai red curry.* If you want it spicier, simply add more red curry paste.

Serve with wide rice noodles (prepared according to package directions). Make sure to have a plate of garnishes on the table, including cilantro, lime wedges, Siracha hot sauce (or sliced chiles).

*So that the Thai red curry paste would disolve quickly into the soup, I simply whisked it into the lime juice first, to ensure no clumps of paste would be present in the soup.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Revised Chicken Salad

I know I have already posted a Chicken Salad recipe before...but this one is far superior. I used mayo this time (yes, yes, I generally have an aversion to mayo, but when using the homemade stuff and applying it the right way, it works extremely well), and adding a few other simple ingredients makes it absolutely delicious. I promise to try to stop posting similar stuff but I cannot guarantee it...

1-2 cups cubed chicken breast (I used chicken that had been boiled previously)
2 tbsp homemade mayonnaise (store bought is fine too, but then add about 2 tsps mustard to it)
1/2 or 1/3 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 tbsp shelled pistachios (raw or roasted)
1-2 tsp Curry Powder

Utensils: spoons, a bowl, a knife, a cutting board, salad spinner (optional)

Prep Work: 1) Fill a bowl of water and add the cilantro, washing it of any dirt or dead leaves. Spin it dry in the salad spinner, or use towels to pat dry.

Take the cubed chicken and add it to a bowl, along with the mayonnaise, and stir gently to incorporate. Add the curry powder, a small pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cut the cilantro leaves from the stems by gathering the cilantro in a bunch, and angling the bunch downwards, take your knife and "scrape" the leaves off quickly (if you prefer, you can also just cut the leaves off from the stems, or pick them off). Chop them up on the cutting board, as fine or as rough as you like (I prefer more texture myself), and add to the bowl with the chicken. Chop up the pistachios as finely or as roughly as you prefer as well. Mix everything together, taste, and add any spices/condiments as you see fit.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for a couple of hours (no, you will not get salmonella or food poisoning or whatever, don't get your panties in a twist). Serve by itself or spoon the salad into lettuce leaves, onto toast, on a bed of spinach...the options are limitless.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Feel-Good Lentil Curry

So I know there is already an entry on Curry, but as autumn comes around and settles in, preparing us for winter, I made another one that is, to say the least, a nice bowl of warm, fuzzy deliciousness. Lentils are pretty easy to cook (and also cheap), and by adding just a few more staple ingredients, voila! A steaming bowl of love.

2 large yellow onions
2 cloves garlic (I used the frozen crushed kind this time)
2 plum tomatoes
1 beefsteak tomato
1 bag (1 lb) red lentils (you may substitute other lentils if that is what you have)
3 cups chicken stock (I had my own but the premade stuff is fine too)
1 tbsp Curry Powder (see the end of the recipe)
2-3 heaping tbsp Patak's Hot Curry Paste (Cumin & Tomato)
Olive oil

1 large heavy saucepan/pot; heavy, sharp chef's knife; cutting board; wooden spoon;

Prep work:
1) Dice up the onions and set aside. 2) Dice the tomatoes, and after dicing, roughly chop them further on the cutting board. Do not throw away the liquid. 3) Mince the garlic if using the fresh kind.

Heat the heavy saucepan on high. When it heats up, add the oil and let it heat up for about 10 seconds (until it shimmers), then add the onions and saute with a pinch of salt. Let them cook down for about 10 minutes, and then add the spices and the curry paste. Cook the spices for a couple of minutes until a "fond" develops. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for about 2-3 minutes, then add the bag of lentils. Let the lentils "toast" a little in the pan (they will not toast totally, as there is liquid in the pan), and add the chicken broth. Bring the pan to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Let the lentils cook for about 30 minutes, checking halfway during cooking time and adjusting if necessary the heat.

Serve in a bowl with yogurt, cilantro, fresh diced tomatoes...the list goes on.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Broiled Wild Salmon

Yikes!! It's been 4 MONTHS since I last posted. Apologies all around - I think most people have stopped reading since I haven't been posting. Well, it's due to a couple of factors: 60% my laziness, 15% being gone in August on vacation, and 15% stress from working and not cooking lately. But I hope this recipe redeems myself slightly...

About 1 lb Wild Salmon, either one whole piece or cut into equal pieces
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp (or less...) soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
2 tsps dijon mustard

1 cookie sheet (or small baking sheet); 1 small bowl; pestle (mortar is optional); aluminium foil to cover the sheet

Prep work: 1) Peel the garlic. 2) Turn the broiler on to "Low"

Cover the sheet with the foil and lay the salmon on it. Put the garlic in the small bowl and using the pestle, gently (but firmly) pound the garlic until it is mashed. Add the sesame oil, dijon, and soy sauce and mix together. You may want to add less soy sauce and add as you taste, as it can be salty. Reserve some of the mixture, and spoon the marinade onto the fish and spread it to cover the surface. Place the rack in the oven about 4 inches from the broiler and place the pan so that the salmon is directly underneath the flames. Broil for approximately 7 minutes or until the salmon flakes but is still moist.You can spoon some of the reserve marinade on the salmon, or leave it as a dipping sauce.