In an attempt to embrace the winterness that has been January, 2011 (and don't bother me about the fact that it is actually February now. There are several feet of snow carpeting the ground. I can't be expected to pay attention to the little details), I made a couple of different kinds of soup this weekend.
Tom Kha Gai
This Thai soup is one of my favorite combination of flavors. It's essentially a spicy chicken soup with coconut milk (as opposed to Tom Yum Gai, which is basically the same soup without coconut milk) . And it turned out to be ridiculously easy to make.
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp or so of crushed red pepper flakes (better yet - 1-2 fresh red thai chili peppers, but go with what you have in a pinch)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1-2 tbsp ginger, grated (properly speaking, you should use galangal, if you can find it)
- zest of 1 lime
- juice of 1-2 limes
- 1/2 lb chopped mushrooms. Whatever kind you have on hand
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 cups baby spinach
- handful of chopped cilantro
Freeze the chicken breasts for about 15-20 minutes (handy later)
Combine broth, ginger, garlic, pepper, lime zest, lime juice and 3 tbsp fish sauce in a pot. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms. Simmer another 3-5 minutes.
Slice the chicken breasts thinly (this is why freezing it a little while helps so much). Add the chicken and the coconut milk. Simmer another 3-5 minutes until the chicken is just cooked.
Stir in the spinach until it begins to wilt (about a minute) - add the cilantro and the last tbsp or so of fish sauce.
Serve - enjoy! (some people like this with cellophane noodles - which you can simply prepare with a few cups of boiling water, and ladle the soup over. I prefer mine without.
The soup is light and citrusy, with a mild sourness and peppery tang that the kids both love.
Chorizo & Kale soup
As I was finishing up the Tom Kha Gai soup (which is best when fresh, as the spinach stays bright and flavorful), I started prepping another soup for the next day. Most soups enrich over time, when the flavors have more of a chance to blend together, I find.
This soup is another easy one, with an even shorter list of ingredients, but is a great lunch time meal almost any time of the year. But there's something especially good about the rich bittery kale that makes it perfect for a winter day.
- 1/2 pound of smoked chorizo, cut into small pieces (note: the smoked Portuguese kind. Not the loose, uncooked Mexican kind, for this recipe).
- 1 large onion, chopped
- a few potatoes, peeled and diced into small-ish cubes
- 8 cups of water
- 3/4 pounds of kale - cut out the center ribs and slice the leaves into strips
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- a healthy splash or two of red wine vinegar
Toss the onion into a dutch oven (you do have a le Creuset, right? Of course you do) on medium high heat with a glug of olive oil, and cook until they start to turn golden. Toss the potatoes in as well, and stir around for 4 or 5 minutes. Add water and a bit of salt to taste, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, toss the chorizo into a separate skillet and cook over medium heat until brown.
Stir a heavy spoon a bit heartily through the potatoes and onions a little, just to smash & break them up a little bit. Stir in the chorizo, the kale, the vinegar and the paprika and let simmer for at least 15 minutes, until the kale is tender.
You can (as I did) then turn this off and cover the soup, coming back to it the next day at lunch to re-heat. The melding of the flavors only makes it better.
Serve it with crusty toast for dipping and a dark, hoppy beer and laugh at the bitter cold outside.