Thai Chicken Soup

We had a few days of rain recently and the temperature was in the 50s. I quickly partook in all winter activities - wore boots and a jacket, two scarves (at once), lit a fire, and made 5 different kinds of soup and chili. Winter-adjacent weather lasts for approximately 72 hours in Southern California so you need to make the most of it. East Coast folks who happen to visit during a "cold spell" have likely looked around and thought, "Are these people nuts? Who needs a beanie when it's 60?" Yes, we're definitely crazy (sweaty) hipsters.



This Thai Chicken Soup is adapted from Cook's Illustrated's The Best International Recipe. As with most soups, the key to tying all the flavors together is homemade stock. I highly recommend making a batch of chicken or vegetable stock for the freezer since you can throw just about any ingredients into a rich broth and it will taste fantastic.








Ingredients

Soup
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 stalks lemon grass, the bottom five inches only, sliced thin Note: The outer layer(s) can be tough so remove anything that isn't tender. Cut the lemon grass in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise.
  • 3 large shallots, small chop
  • 8 sprigs fresh cilantro, rough chop
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce Note: The original recipe calls for 3 tbsp.
  • 4 cups Homemade Roasted Chicken Stock
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk Note: I use 1/2 a can of regular coconut milk and 1 1/2 light. The flavor was plenty rich.
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 lb white mushrooms, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • Breast meat from a roasted chicken, torn or cut into pieces roughly 1/4-inch wide Note: The original recipe suggests cooking thinly-sliced chicken breast but I like the ease and flavor of roasted chicken. As a bonus, any leftover parts of the chicken can go into the freezer for a new pot of stock.
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice Note: The original recipe calls for 3 tbsp.
  • 3 tsp Thai red curry paste Note: The original recipe calls for 2 tsp.

Garnish
  • Jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, very thinly sliced
  • Lime wedges
  • Cilantro, to taste


Jalapeños at Milliken Family Farms - Santa Monica Farmers Market


Instructions
  • Over medium, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or similar pan.
  • Sauté the lemon grass, shallots, chopped cilantro, and 1 tbsp of the fish sauce. Stir often until the ingredients are softened (about 3-5 minutes).
  • Add the chicken stock and 1 can of coconut milk, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the temperature, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and throw away the filtered bits. Note: Cook's Illustrated suggests that this is the point at which you can refrigerate the soup for up to a day. I refrigerated the completely finished product (with the mushrooms, chicken, etc.) and found it to be fine the next day. Chef's discretion.
  • Wipe out your Dutch oven and add your strained soup, then bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  • Add the sugar, remaining coconut milk, and stir.
  • While the broth is simmering, add the mushrooms and cook until just tender (about 3 minutes).
  • Add the roasted chicken pieces and cook until warmed through.
  • Turn off the heat and add your lime juice, remaining 1 tbsp fish sauce, and curry paste. Stir to combine.
  • Garnish with thinly sliced jalapeño, cilantro, and a lime wedge.

Storage and Reheating

Rob and I had this dish for dinner and then I kept the leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container. The soup was great the next day, though I'm not sure I'd keep it much longer that that. To reheat, let the soup stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then heat slowly so that the mushrooms and chicken don't get tough or overcooked.

One-pot Smoky Turkey Chili

There are a number of reasons why I like this turkey chili recipe. It freezes beautifully, can be made ahead (even tastes better the next day), is relatively healthy, and easily serves a crowd. Since it's one of the first dishes I cooked regularly, the ratios and ingredients have gone through several adjustments over the years. Rob mentioned that the most recent iteration is especially delicious so I figured it was time to put turkey chili up on the blog.

In terms of ingredients, I highly recommend ordering some smoked tomatoes, chipotles, and garlic from Windrose Farms. The smokiness isn't overwhelming which makes them truly versatile ingredients. Not only is the flavor dynamite, but you'll be supporting some super sweet farmers here in California.



Sourdough Blueberry Pancakes

For many years, I used the buttermilk pancake recipe from Cook's Illustrated's The New Best Recipe (a must-have cookbook). If you don't have a sourdough starter, I highly recommend the CI version with the addition of a scant 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract. That being said, my recent bread baking obsession inspired me to develop a pancake recipe that incorporated sourdough starter (aka levain).

Turns out sourdough pancakes are really excellent. They have an airy and tender center, slightly crisped exterior, and the flavor is much more cohesive than their ordinary cousins. I explain how to make and manage a levain in this post. In terms of preparing the pancakes ahead of time, freezing works beautifully and I've included those notes below. Now you can have delicious pancakes everyday, the way nature intended.



Cranberry Sauce

When Rob and I were dating, I didn't know much about cooking which was definitely to his benefit. I recall being quite impressed that he knew how to make cranberry sauce and even added orange juice to the dish. How creative! I thought. He could read a package and boil water and I thought this was cooking excellence. Flash-forward a handful of years and, yeah, that was the extent of his culinary mastery. The man is lucky to have all of his fingers intact with that knife technique.

As everyone but my 20-something self knows, cranberry sauce is easy. The key is to find the right balance of sweet and tart to suit your palate. The challenge I've had over the years is that sweetening cranberry sauce exclusively with sugar leaves a flavor gap - the sauce is either distinctly tart or too sweet without anything in the middle to round things out. After several experiments, I've come up with a recipe that compliments the turkey without clubbing you over the head with a sugar cube. I consider this "base level" sweetness that can be adjusted up to suit your needs.