Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The gift that keeps on giving

No, this isn't a holiday-themed post. But I'm choosing to use that familiar expression as a metaphor for...soup. Yes, that's right, soup. Because in the same way that a good gift continues to bring happiness long after it is given, a good pot of soup continues to nourish for days or even weeks after it is cooked. Sometime last week I decided I wanted to make soup. It was cold, and I wanted to be warmed, and I wanted to have a big pot of something tasty waiting in my fridge for me to partake of whenever I wanted. Also, I had a frozen chicken carcass lying around, and it was high time to convert it into some homemade broth.

So that's where I started. Making chicken broth is easy and you can basically do it however you want to, adding whatever seasonings or aromatics that you happen to have on hand. What I did was place the frozen chicken carcass in the biggest, tallest pot that I own, filled it almost to the top with about 10 cups of cold water, added half an onion, a bunch of fresh parsley, and a small handful of black peppercorns. I covered the pot and turned on the heat, and when the water came to a boil I uncovered the pot, turned it down to a simmer, and left it alone for about 3 hours, or until the broth had reduced to about 8 cups of liquid. At that point I turned the heat off, skimmed the top of the broth of any foam or excess fat, then seasoned it with a good amount of salt and a little bit of black pepper. Then I reserved the 6 cups I needed for my soup and transferred the rest to containers to let it cool.

Then I did something I don't often do--I followed a recipe. Doing so was, in fact, kind of counterintuitive, because making soup is so simple that you can usually just wing it. But I felt like making a bright, flavorful soup, not your run-of-the-mill chicken noodle variety. So I found a recipe at epicurious.com for Thai Chicken-Coconut Soup, made of a base of chicken broth and coconut milk and featuring lively additions such as lime juice and zest, chilies, cilantro and fish sauce. The soup turned out just as I wanted it to: spicy, complex-tasting, and filling. And the pot lasted me about six or seven meals--I just ate it continually for a few days in a row, never tiring of its flavors, which intensified as it sat in the fridge. The best part? There's still one serving left, sitting in my freezer waiting for a day when, lazy and hungry, I'll still be able to enjoy a complete meal in about 5 minutes. That's a lot of payoff for not a lot of work.

Thai Chicken-Coconut Soup
From epicurious.com
Makes 6-8 servings


4 oz. cellophane noodles
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1–2 red Thai (or jalapeƱo) peppers, seeded and finely chopped (plus slices for garnish)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon (or lime) juice
4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, divided
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced (3 cups)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 ounces each), cut into 2 1/2-inch-long by 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 cup light coconut milk
2 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro (plus sprigs for garnish)


Place noodles in a bowl; add enough warm water to cover and let sit until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain. Combine broth, pepper, garlic, ginger, lemon zest, lime zest, lemon juice and 3 tablespoon fish sauce in a medium saucepan. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer, add noodles and cook 3 minutes more. Using tongs, transfer noodles to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Add mushrooms to broth; season with salt, if desired; simmer 3 minutes more. Add chicken and coconut milk and simmer, stirring, until chicken is just cooked, about 3 minutes. Stir in spinach until it begins to wilt, about 1 minute. Add chopped cilantro and season with remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce. Using tongs, divide noodles among 4 bowls. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with sprigs of cilantro and slices of pepper.


willy said...

Why is there still no entry about that soft taco and those gross fried corn chips? Not to mention the croissant in the plastic bag from the subway station. When are Inwood delicacies going to finally get the attention they deserve in the blogosphere?

Lauren said...

Oh, you Texas/Morningside Heights/Inwood kids are so funny. Don't worry, Inwood eats will get their due someday, and that day will be when I purchase a $5 pizza from the guy on the street in front of Papa John's.

Gideon said...

how come you put the noodles in and then take them out and then put them in again? why can't you just put them in and leave them there?

Lauren said...

If you just leave 'em in, they will get too soggy. Lose their toothsome quality. You cook them in the broth (as opposed to just hot water) so they will pick up some of its flavor, but then you take 'em out again to prevent the aforementioned sogginess.

Gideon said...

psht. sounds like overkill if you ask me. i'll tell you one thing--my grandma never pulled her noodles in and out of her soup.

on the other hand, my mom definitely did.

Lauren said...

Rice noodles are more prone to sogginess than egg noodles! Proceed with caution, you headstrong youth!

willy said...

The gift that keeps on giving, and the blog post that keeps on remaining. Come on Lauren, I may have eaten that enormous hunk of pork, but I still want to see some photos of it.