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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tom Yum Soup

So today was a culinary adventure...My husband loves Asian cuisine so much that if I basically suggest we turn our kitchen into a Southeast Asian restaurant for the day, he's counting out chili peppers before I even finish my thought.  While I benefit from this on some days, it works against me on days when I want nothing more than chicken pot pie - a meal which Jim doesn't want to touch, and watching him force himself to eat just a bit is painful.  But I digress.  Getting back to today's post...I crave tom yum soup on a regular basis.  So it's been a long time coming that I try to make it on my own.  I set about it (drawing from all the different recipes I could find on-line and tasting as I went along) while Jim made papaya salad (not perfected just yet, but when it is, I will be sure to post the final recipe).

The resulting soup was a perfect, well-balanced combination of sour, salty, spicy, and a subtle hint of sweet.  If that weren't enough, in addition to all those wonderful flavors, the galangal that is used (apparently from what I have read, you should not substitute ginger), lends an earthiness - so don't skip the galangal.  That being said...the only downside is that if you want to try this out at home, it will require a trip to a specialty Asian market.  However, the crazy good smell of the lemongrass as you chop it makes up for the the inconvenience factor.  If you love tom yum soup, or if you have never had tom yum soup but the flavors I have described speak to you, then I don't think you will be disappointed by this.

Tom Yum Soup
serves 6

1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 slices fresh galangal (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup (2-inch) pieces peeled fresh lemongrass (about 4 stalks)
8 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 tablespoons roasted red chili paste (nam prik pao)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 Thai chilies
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 2 limes

Peel and devein shrimp, reserving shells.  Combine shrimp shells and 8 cups water in a Dutch oven and  bring to a simmer.  Cook 1 hour. Strain broth into another pot and discard solids.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves to the pot and simmer 10 minutes. Again, strain broth mixture into a pot (I strained this back into the Dutch oven in which I made the shrimp stock so there was less to clean) and discard solids.  Add the mushrooms, chili paste, fish sauce, sugar, and chilies and bring to a boil.  Stir in shrimp, green onions, and cilantro and cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Discard chilies and stir in the fresh lime juice.  This would be wonderful served with rice noodles if you like, but I thought it was amazing by itself as well.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Skillet Honey Cornbread

So remember how the other day I made that sausage soup with the cornmeal dumplings?  The cornmeal dumplings just weren't doing it for me.  So since (1) we got yet another snow day today and (2) I plan on having some of that soup for lunch and (3) I happen to have all of the ingredients for cornbread on hand, I made this loaf of loveliness.  Do I have a problem or what?  It's a pretty good problem to have, I guess.  At least for all those around me.

This cornbread came out so good, I just can't stop eating it.  It's perfectly moist, which you don't often get with some cornbread.  I think the amount of sweetness is just right too, but if you like your cornbread on the sweeter side, then up the sugar from 1/2 to 2/3 a cup.  Also, feel free to add some frozen corn to the batter before baking.  Some people like that and some (like Jim) hate it.

Skillet Honey Cornbread

8 Tbsp butter, 7 of them melted, the other set aside
3 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (click here so you never need to buy and waste buttermilk ever again)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt

If using a cast iron skillet (I used a 10-inch), place it in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, honey, and sugar.  Then incorporate the eggs.  Add the baking soda and buttermilk and mix it all together.  In another large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, and salt.  Add the wet ingredients to this dry mixture and mix just until all the flour disappears.

Once your oven is preheated, remove the cast iron skillet and turn the oven down to 375.  Then melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the hot skillet.  Swirl the pan around so it covers the bottom of your pan and then add your cornbread mixture.  Place in the oven for 25 minutes.  When it's done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Nothing says "I love you" like homemade baked goods.  So with errands to do on Monday, a dentist appointment on Tuesday, a staff meeting on Wednesday, and my graduate class on Thursday, unless I could get my act together with something relatively simple, it would be a cookie-free Valentine's Day on Friday.  So I thought making heart shaped shortbread cookies would be simple and a nice way to get Adrienne involved, and although I have already made an absolutely wonderful coconut shortbread cookie before, Jim's not the biggest fan of coconut.  And then I wondered if anyone's ever made a chocolate shortbread cookie.  Sure enough, they have.  So I checked out a bunch of recipes and settled on one that had the most trustworthy combination of ingredients and it was perfection.  These were great.  I'm officially adding it to my cookie catalogue (if I had a cookie catalogue.)  Adrienne fun dipping them in chocolate and covering them in sprinkles, so it really was the best kind of self-created Valentine's Day fun.  I hope you also enjoy making this with or for your loved ones.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Crunchy Creamy Sweet
makes 12  cookies

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 oz. 60% dark chocolate chips
2 tsp canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a standing mixer (or in a bowl using a hand mixer), beat the butter for about 1 minute until creamy.  Add the sugar and beat together for 4 minutes.  Then add the vanilla and combine.  In another large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Then add half this mixture to the butter mixture  Once incorporated, add the remaining flour.  Mix for another minute or so on medium speed.

Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and mold into a disc.  Wrap well and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Once ready, unwrap and roll out 1/4-inch thick in between two pieces of parchment paper.  Cut out your cookies, reroll out your scraps, cut more cookies, and repeat until there is nothing left.

Place the cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Allot to cool completely before proceeding to dip them in chocolate.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the chocolate and oil in the microwave in 15 second intervals until the chocolate is melted.  Stir until smooth and dip each cookie.  Lay the cookies back on a piece of parchment paper and decorate with sprinkles.  Allow to cool completely before serving.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sausage and Mixed Greens Soup with Cornbread Dumplings

Full disclosure right from the start...a loved this soup, but did not love these dumplings.  I really, really, really, wanted to love the dumplings, but I didn't.  I'm not sure what would have helped to be honest.  Maybe some additional herbs or seasoning?  Some chopped up jalepenos or bits of corn?  I'm not sure if it would do any good because I'm thinking I would just prefer a delicious piece of sweet cornbread on the side to balance the spiciness from the sausage.  I'd be willing to try them again, but with additions.  If I do, I will most certainly update.  If I don't, it doesn't mean I did not make this soup again.  I am sure it will appear on my table in the future.  The soup was amazingly good.  If you love the flavor of andouille sausage, then you must make this.  

I found this recipe on Bon Appetit and I knew my husband would go head over heels...which he did (he even liked the dumplings despite the fact that I wasn't sold.)  This soup reminds me of New Orleans. In fact, the next time I make it, I may very well throw in some red beans and make some rice on the side...that would be very good indeed.

In an effort to make it a tad healthier, I found some andouille sausage sans nitrates.  I know there are some good chicken versions out there if you want to make it even healthier, but they can be hard to find..

Sausage and Mixed Green Soup with Cornbread Dumplings
adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 6

For the dumplings:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1-1/2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped scallions

Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir in the milk, butter and scallions.  Let sit for at least 1 hour.  Can be made a day in advance. (Just cover and refrigerate.)

For the soup:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped 
12 oz. andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 14.5-oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
11-12 oz. leafy greens (I used an 11 oz. package of mixed spinach, swiss chard, collards, kale ,and mustard greens)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over meadium heat and saute the onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves until the onion is translucent - about 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the sausage and cook until the fat renders - about 5 more minutes.  Add in the broth and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil.  I skim the foam that comes to the top as it cooks.  Add the greens and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Then add your dumpling mixture by the tablespoon to the top.  (You should get about 18 dumplings.)  Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer covered for 25 minutes until the dumplings are cooked through.

Hyper Smash

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chinese Chicken Rice Casserole

Jim bought me the best Christmas present this year...a big, beautiful Le Creuset French oven.  I use it once a week because it is good for absolutely everything, including roasting a chicken (a recipe I must share in the near future).  So I search for one pot meals every chance I get lately.  I found a bunch of Dutch/French oven recipes on theKitchn web site and I decided to test this one out tonight.  I think I found my new favorite one pot meal.  In addition to all the usual wonderful ingredients like chicken, rice, scallions, garlic, and ginger, this recipe had me at hello with the addition of smoked Chinese sausage.  There's a Vietnamese restaurant nearby that puts this Chinese sausage in their fried rice and it's amazing.  It's the most flavorful sausage I've ever tasted.  So it's inclusion in this dish made me happy and beyond willing to run all the way to a huge Asian superstore that is 30 minutes from our house...HMart!

HMart is a mecca of all that is wonderful about Eastern cuisine.  They have a huge produce selection filled with 3 different varieties of bok choy alone - not to mention every other green known to man.  There are mushrooms galore and some fruits and vegetables that I never knew existed.  (Yesterday I saw a fruit there that looked like a blowfish as big as my torso.)  They have more types of kimchee than you could imagine.  The meat department has an entire aisle dedicated to every type of  thinly sliced cut of meat possible...shabu shabu, anyone?  They even have an aisle for rice cookers - we happened to buy ours there.  When Jim and I make a trek to HMart, we spend a couple of hours.  We have lunch at the food court (some of the best stone pot bim bim bap I ever thought possible...I dream about it at night sometimes.)  Then we browse, shop, and did I mention they do samples???  We taste test everything they're dishing out, from scallion pancakes to dumplings to noodle soups.  It's always a good time.  Except for the fact that it's a madhouse on the weekends and therefore a parking nightmare.  They actually have two cops on duty trying to manage the "situation."

Still totally worth it.  This dish was so flavorful.  There is a small amount of sausage in the dish, so it's pretty healthy overall.  I healthified it a little more by using brown rice instead of white and low sodium everything - I also cut out the extra salt that was called for.  The result could not have been more perfect.  I will certainly be making this again - especially now that I have smoked Chinese sausage links in my freezer just waiting to be used.

Chinese Chicken Rice Casserole
adapted from theKitchn
serves 6

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
2 boneless chicken breasts, about 1 pound, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 scallions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
2 oz smoked Chinese sausage, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
10 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps thinly sliced
1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 cups brown rice
4 cups low sodium chicken broth

Heat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Stir in the chicken, scallions, garlic and ginger, and toss so that they are coated with the liquid.  Let the chicken marinate for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, place an oven-safe pan (at least 3 quarts), over medium high heat on the stove. When it is hot, add the sausage and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the sausage slowly release its fat. When the bottom of the pot is slick with the sausage fat, add the mushrooms. Turn the heat back up to medium high heat and let the mushrooms cook, without stirring them, for 5 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot, and sauté the rice for about 1 minute to develop some toasty flavor.  Then add the chicken mixture and the stock and bring to a boil.

Turn off the heat, cover with a lid or with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  I had a lot of liquid left in the dish after this step, so I put it back in the oven uncovered for another 15 minutes.  After that, it was perfection.  Let stand 5 minutes, covered, before serving. Stir up the rice before serving, as the chicken and mushrooms will have risen to the top during baking.  Stir thoroughly so that they are incorporated throughout the rice.

 I had no luck finding shitake mushrooms this weekend, so I used regular white mushrooms and it was fine.  (Shitakes would have been better.)