Soup

Mango =

Posted in Fruit, Mango, Soup on March 30th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

Last summer I was craving some lazy, pre-sliced mango from Whole Foods. When they didn’t have any lazy mango for me, I told myself it’s not the end of the world, I can buy a whole mango and slice it myself. But when they didn’t have mangos… at least not what I knew of mangos – those red/green roundish fruit – I was nearly defeated. I had to buy one of these yellow things they called some sort of mango I’ve never heard of and…

I’ve never looked back. I hunted these things down, at Whole Foods, at Uwajimaya, since they don’t seem to be sold in everyday grocery stores. I made my own “pre-sliced” mango to eat at work. If I was to convert this to a recipe it would look like:

  • Peel mango
  • Slice

I even found out what that weird curved knife in the knife block was for, other than ‘that knife you use when all the others are dirty’.


Well mango season must be back because I was excited to see these on display at Whole Foods and immediately grabbed up a couple. But just a couple days before I also bought an everyday old mango at Safeway because they were on sale and I thought ‘why not?’

Well Everyday Old Mango was starting to look kind of shriveled and even less appealing than Yummy Yellow Mango so tonight’s dinner started out as a ‘how can I use this stuff up before it goes bad?’ search and ended with an amazing discovery – Curried Mango Chicken Soup.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 mangos, peeled, flesh cut away from the pits, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche, plus extra for garnish
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

One of the biggest cooking tragedies is to plan a meal around a certain item, build yourself up to the idea, and after you’re showered and pajama’ed with no intentions of going back out, to find out you don’t have it. (This is surpassed mostly by the experience of pouring yourself a nice bowl of cereal and finding out the milk’s gone bad.)

I was sure I had a can of chicken broth, as well as the leftovers in the fridge, instead of leftovers being that can I was thinking of. I ended up trying to do a vague thirding of the recipe, since I only had one mango anyway, and figured I’d end up with more of a mango curry chicken stew than soup (which is assuming that stew is just a less soupy kind of soup.) Actually what I did came out perfectly, with only one cup of chicken broth, to make a single serving bowl.

This then became known as the recipe where I used every cutting board in the kitchen. Because first I peeled the mango to make sure it was still good before going any further.

Mango peeled but not yet chopped.

Then the chicken… I keep saying I hate working with raw chicken and it’s still true. I was about to compliment the chicken pieces I had for being small and easy to work with until I realized I had accidentally bought breast tenders. They always have this strip of tendon or something going through the middle (I assume that’s the ‘tend’ in ‘tender’). Do people actually eat this or is it just my aversion to “icky bits” that has an issue with it? After some careful chopping this is what I came up with.

All icky bits removed.

Instead of a large onion I used a very small onion, which required a third cutting board that was neither contaminated by chicken or mango juice.

With more careful planning this could have been all one cutting board, but then again that’s why we have a dishwasher.

I also have no creme fraiche, but I decided, before seeing their own suggestion to do so, to use coconut milk in its place.

Directions:

  • In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the curry powder and cinnamon, then heat for 30 seconds.

Thirding teaspoons is too complicated so I went with 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon in a drizzle of oil. This smelled amazing when it started to cook.

  • Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion as well as any oil and seasonings in the pan to a blender. Add the mango and 1 cup of the broth to the blender, then purée until smooth. Set aside.

I used 1/4 cup of broth, just enough to add some liquid. We don’t actually own a real blender so the immersion blender gets used for everything these days.

It excels at turning things into a goopy mess.

  • Return the empty saucepan to medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and saute until browned and cooked through. Add the remaining broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any stuck bits and seasonings. Bring to a simmer.

It didn’t look like it would be a lot, until seeing how much soup the liquid mango goop would add.

  • Pour the mango purée back into the saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.

For the record, a “gentle simmer” shouldn’t bubble out of the pan and hurt you. The soup and I needed to have a discussion about what “gentle” means, before I turned down the heat.

  • Stir in the creme fraiche and lime juice, then season with salt and pepper. Garnish each serving with cilantro and an extra dollop of creme fraiche (if desired).

I added 1/4 of (lite) coconut milk… and then another 1/4 cup for the “garnish”, because coconut milk is good, and “lite” coconut milk is just watered down normal coconut milk. In fact you can save money by buying coconut milk and watering it down yourself, but we can never even use up a whole can in time once it’s been opened. I now need coconut milk recipes in the next few days or the rest of the can is being wasted.

I was really, really impressed at what came out of a throw-together meal. The only issue with my variations is it was light on the chicken, the actual chunky bits that make soup feel like a meal. Then I realized I could just cook up the rest of the chicken I had. I rescued the tenders from their fate in the freezer – to sit frozen until too old to remember if they’re too old to eat and be thrown out (it feels less wasteful than to admit this and throw them out at the start) – extra cold but not frozen. I cooked the chicken in the pan the same as before, adding some cinnamon for flavor, and then just dumped it all in the bowl.

Chef Studboy’s Potato Leek Soup

Posted in Potatoes, Soup on February 10th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

I had what will probably be the highlight of my blogging career a while back, when an actual chef looked at my site and then gave me a recipe off of my wishlist from out of his head.

Chef Studboy:

Yes he’s a chef in real life too.

Like most recipes I meant to cut this one in half, although it didn’t work out that way in the end.

about 2 cups of Mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion diced)

Interesting, there’s a word for that stuff.

and about 4 cups of leeks, this will be a decent sized batch

Having never cooked with leeks before, I didn’t know if you were supposed to use the whole thing, or just the white or green. Consensus on the internet was the white part, or one that made the most sense to me, the white and pale green.

Some warnings for others who haven’t used leeks before:

1. You’d think those huge things would be plenty but when cutting off the leaves I only got a little over a cup out of each one.

2. They’re quite dirty inside. Understandable for something that grows in the dirt, but make sure to wash each layer carefully.

3. It’s hard to spin a leek if you don’t have cartoon hands.

sear off some bacon, and set it aside. chop it up when it’s dried and cooled, and save the grease
cook off the mirepoix and 2 cups of the leeks in the grease, until it’s all clear

At this point we talked about bacon for a bit. I’m probably the only non-vegetarian who shies away from bacon – I like the taste but I can’t deal with the visible fat. So he came up with the idea to add the bacon before the soup was blended, to keep the flavor, and skip the grease part.

Following the potato soup recipe, I cooked the veggies in some melted butter instead.

then, add about a quart of chicken stock
cook off about 8 potatoes in that mixture, until the potatoes are done
also, cook off a few potatoes on the side in water and save them

I’m pretty sure my proportions got thrown off even more at this point. I thought I had more than enough leeks and potatoes when I started, and this could have been doubled easily.

once the potatoes are cooked in the stock, completely blend everything
turn it into all liquid

When I first planned recipes like this I didn’t have an actual blender, so I intended to use my smoothie maker to do it in batches and then hope someone would feel sorry for my patheticness and buy me one for Christmas. When I found out I was getting the immersion blender as a gift I just put it off until I could use the real thing instead.

Action shot!

then, add the chopped bacon and dice up the cooked potatoes
finally, sautee the remaining leeks in a little garlic, then add all of that to the pot
the potatoes in the stock will thicken the soup naturally
and voila, Potato Leek soup

The first problem is it’s been so long since I had that amazing potato leek soup that made me want to learn to begin with, I forgot what it’s supposed to taste like. Or look like – orange? My soup was rather orange.

The second problem was a lack of solids. I should have had more potatoes, and cut the pieces into smaller pieces instead of pretending I was making mashed potatoes since that seems to be what I know how to do best.

However,

you can add cream to it as well if you like, if it’s too thick, or you want a smoother soup
actually, with the numbers I gave you I would add a bit of cream, maybe 2 cups

“A bit” and “2 cups” seem like pretty drastically different amounts to me but I went and added somewhere between “a bit” and a cup. The cream really made it.. well, good, but I hate to think how much I killed the illusion of this being a healthy soup.

Midnight Turkey Barley Soup

Posted in Soup on December 27th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

The problem with cooking large holiday dinners is dealing with leftovers.

The problem with going to someone else’s for large holiday dinners is not having leftovers.

On my way home from work Thursday I stopped at Lect’s Soup, what I usually refer to as “the really good soup place“, for lunch and got some chicken/bleu cheese/barley soup. Amazing soup. I wanted to find a recipe but the bleu cheese addition seems to be their own specialty. Instead I found Turkey Barley Soup with good timing, knowing there were leftovers coming up.

Thanks to Andrew’s Christmas turkey, for the first time I was able to use a recipe with a bird carcass in the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 meaty turkey carcass from a 16-pound bird
  • 9 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
  • 2 medium-sized onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 cups chopped dill
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 10 quarts water
  • 1 cup barley

We had a 12 pound turkey and my large soup pot only holds 8 quarts so it got cut back a bit. In the spirit of using leftovers, some things like celery and carrots I just used up what we had left in the fridge.

Parsnips I’ve never used before, but I expected to like them since I’m generally a fan of root vegetables. I had them confused with turnips in my head so I was surprised to see they look like big white carrots.

Dill I only see fresh in those expensive little packets of fresh herbs in the store. Since I’m not a huge dill fan I just poured in half a jar of freeze-dried I already had on hand.

I didn’t chop the parsley, instead just picking the leaves off the stems and tore them with my fingers. If the rest of the soup is chunky I don’t see anything wrong with big pieces of parsley either.

Directions:
Place turkey carcass, vegetables, 1 cup dill, seasonings, and water in a large stockpot.

It all fits, barely.

Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours.
Skim foam, as it cooks.

I wondered if I was doing something wrong because there was never any foam to skim.

Remove carcass; cool and shred meat.

I realized a problem at this point – how do you get out a now falling apart carcass while keeping the vegetables? I made a soup from scratch once that started with a pot full of vegetables that were supposed to all be thrown out once the broth was done. Such a waste, and this recipe doesn’t say anything about getting rid of the vegetables. I ended up pulling out what I could of the carcass, and then scooping out all of the vegetables into a separate bowl, first with a large spoon and then with my skimmer, until I was satisfied that there were no “icky bits” left floating in the soup. Normally I would strain the broth to be sure but I didn’t have another container large enough to hold it all.

Return meat to stockpot; add barley.

I’m amazed at how much meat came off of what was otherwise going to be thrown out. Now I see why people began making soup with leftovers.

Simmer 40 minutes.

Add remaining dill, stir, and serve hot.

Instead of dill I added the rest of our parsley.

I started cooking (chopping vegetables) around 7pm but because of the time involved in cooking it wasn’t ready until after midnight. Just time to taste it and put it away.

I’m really, really happy with how this turned out. My first successful broth-based soup! I’ve never been able to make a chicken/turkey broth that had flavor, and using a box feels like cheating. Neither have that restaurant quality flavor I’m looking for. It’s good enough on its own that I forgot I was going to try adding bleu cheese to a bowl to see how that turns out.

Potato Soup with Blue Cheese

Posted in Potatoes, Soup on November 1st, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

The first time I made this potato soup I thought it came out pretty bland and ‘meh’. My curse of soup – I just can’t pull off a good, flavorful, broth-based soup to compete with anyone’s grandmother (or my standard – really good restaurant soup.) Then I added the blue cheese crumbles as instructed and it was suddenly great. I was reluctant to recommend it though since blue cheese is such a personal thing – you either love it or you hate it – that the recipe being so dependent on that single ingredient seemed like a failure.

It’s nowhere near St. Patrick’s Day like this recipe suggests it’s for, but since the weather has turned officially “icky” for the season I’ve been craving soup and I’ve been craving comfort food. Potatoes are big on my comfort food list so this weekend I found myself cooking up a big pot of soup I unfortunately can’t share with my ‘I’ll eat any cheese but blue cheese and cream cheese’ husband.

Ingredients:

  • 2 T Unsalted Butter
  • 1 ea Onion (Medium, Chopped)
  • 3 ea Shallots (Medium, Chopped)
  • 1 ea Carrot (Small, Sliced)
  • 1 ea Celery (Small, Sliced)
  • 4 C Yukon Gold Potatoes (½” Dice)
  • 2 C Chicken Broth (Low-Sodium)
  • 1 C Water
  • 1 T Fresh Thyme
  • 1 ¼ C Whole Milk
  • 1 T Kosher Salt
  • 1 T White Pepper (Ground)
  • 2 t Fresh Chives (Minced, For Garnish)
  • ½ C Blue Cheese (Crumbled)

I always make mashed potatoes with Yukon Golds, leaving the skins on, so I did the same for the soup. Cut out any eyes and questionable bits, but if the potatoes are fresh the skins should be thin and clean.

I love shallots, they’re a great semi-recent discovery for me, but I hate working with them. Since the layers are so thin they ask for a precision touch when chopping which means a lot more face time than with an onion. Then since they’re often paired with onions that’s a double dose of sulfoxides. Chop the other vegetables first and you can’t back out now…

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Add Onion, Shallot and 1 t Salt; sweat until translucent. Add Celery and Carrot and continue to cook until the vegetables have softened slightly approximately 5 minutes.

vegetables in pot

Are my vegetables sweaty?

  1. Add Chicken Broth, Water and Potatoes to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; Cover and cook until potatoes are tender about 20 minutes.
  2. In a sauce pan bring the Milk to a simmer with the Thyme. Let steep about 10 minutes.

Since I was using dried thyme instead of fresh (1 tbsp) and because I forgot to time it properly and start the milk while the potatoes were cooking, I just simmered the dried thyme in the milk until it was heated.

  1. When Potatoes are tender, remove soup from heat add milk mixture and season with Salt, White Pepper.

potato soup in pot
Before the milk was added. The thyme-milk came out looking like a sickly cup of hot chocolate in the making.

  1. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with Chives and Blue Cheese.

bowl of potato soup

Since it came out so well I’m going to admit that I had to use 2% milk instead of whole. I tasted it before the blue cheese and I think even then it tasted better than last time, but it could be that I knew better than to expect it to be finished without its garnish.

It could be that I used chicken broth in a can (left over from my pre-test day of no solid food) instead of… whatever kind I used last time.

Or it could just be that practice really does make perfect… but I’m using chicken broth from a can from now on.

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Posted in Soup on October 5th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

Vietnamese Chicken Pho sounds redundant to me because I always thought this was specifically a Vietnamese dish, but please correct me if I’m wrong. This one seems to be part of a contest but I’d been looking forward to making it for myself for quite a while.

So it might be because I used ground coriander when the recipe called for whole…  or might be that I just don’t like coriander that much…

It doesn’t help that I used regular anise seed, hoping it was the same thing as star anise (until I saw the picture again), or that I also don’t like anise to begin with.

And then there was the fish sauce.  I like fish, I like sauce, and I’m all for putting them together but the smell wasn’t something I was ready for on top of the overwhelming amount of spices.

Needless to say, this recipe started out bad.  Luckily the broth tasted better than it smelled, probably because most the coriander settled to the bottom and was strained out, because I was on the verge of searching for last-minute recipes to use up a bowl of shredded chicken. I do wish I had gotten around to buying a cheesecloth at some point to strain it further.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

 

The great thing about the Pho place I pick up lunch from sometimes is they give you all of these in a separate little baggie, which I can throw right in the trash instead of having to pick the bean sprouts out of my soup. I used the cilantro, and if I had planned ahead I’d also keep the lime and onions.

Accompaniments:

2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

Directions:

To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.

In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.

Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.

(Or use a fork and save your fingers.)

Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.

An important note here… make sure you test your noodles to be sure they’re done! I had a beautiful bowl of soup at the end, with half crunchy noodles.

Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Or, you know, dump it all into your bowl and enjoy.

Chicken Pho