soup

Chicken Soup Can Go to Hell: What My Soul Needs is Tom Yum Goong

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A while back a few friends had us over for a dinner party. After spending a few weeks in different areas of Indonesia and Thailand, these friends had picked up different local recipes they wanted to try out on their home turf. Delan was kind enough to share one of the recipes on to me, and I’ve finally built up the guts to make it myself.

It’s Tom Yum Goong, a spicy and sour soup served with lemon grass and shrimp. From the first bite (or slurp), I realized this soup was what my life had been missing. I had had cravings for the multi-layered flavors in this soup my entire life, yearning for the freshness, the sweet, the nasal clearing spice, and never even realized it until that first moment of taste.

Chicken soup can go to hell. What my soul needs is Tom Yum.

To make this soup even more special, most of the ingredients must be purchased from specialized Asian markets – especially when you live in Texas. Ironically, the closest one to me is a place called MT Market. The first time I heard of the place, I wondered why anyone would name their shop “Empty”.

Here’s the shopping list:

1lb prawns/shrimp cleaned and deveined. I like a larger shrimp, but what ever your preference will work.

7-10oz. stalk mushrooms. When you get enough of these deliciously thin stalk fungi swirling around in the broth, they act just like noodles.

3 stalks lemon grass cut into 2 inch segments.

4 lime leaves, torn.  I couldn’t find these any where, but if you can find it don’t chop these suckers. Just tear them.

1/2 cup galangal in slices. This is from the ginger family and the stuff we get here is usually grown in Hawaii.

1 cup cilantro. The recipe actually calls for a bunch of coriander. Do you know what fresh coriander leaves are? They’re cilantro.

3 TBSP chili oil/paste. Normally I’d use Srirachi, but this particular recipe noted Nam Prik Pow. I couldn’t find that, so I used 2 TBSP of chili oil and 1TBSP of srirachi. And it was spicy. Burn-your-lips spicy. So keep your own heat tolerance in mind when you make this.

1/4 cup lime juice. Limes are cheap – Get your self 4-6 limes and use the fresh stuff!

1/2 TBSP lime zest. I used this because I couldn’t find lime leaves, but the original recipe does not call for it.

5 tsp fish sauce. If you don’t have fish sauce you can use salt, but fish sauce is available everywhere, even Walmart, and it’s flavor in this is worth it.

1/2 cup coconut milk

4 cups water. Austin water is pretty questionable what with the mold and all. I don’t mind using it for pasta, but for this I used bottled stuff.

Put the water on to boil. Once it’s rolling, throw in the galangal, lemon grass, mushrooms, lime leaves (if you found them, other wise use the lime zest), and the fish sauce.

Bring back up to a boil and toss in the shrimp and coconut milk.

Bring to a boil again; this all doesn’t take long at all. Once it reaches a boil again, turn off the heat.

Add the chili oil/paste and the fresh chopped coriander-better-known-as-cilantro. Just before serving, add the lime juice.

The lime juice must be added right before serving to create the fresh and sour flavor.

I love the way the chili oil dances around the edges and top of the soup. You can make it with chicken, but if you follow the directions you simply can’t cook the shrimp wrong and they go so well in this. Make it when you’re sick to perk you up and clear your sinuses. If it’s too spicy for you, drizzle an additional tablespoon or two of coconut milk over your serving and stir to quell that fire right down. Chip actually dumped his rice right into the center of his bowl, making it a bit like a gumbo. And I looooove the mushrooms; they’ve got the perfect texture and are like uber healthy noodles.

This amazing, fresh, sour, and spicy concoction stands beautifully on it’s own or serve it with a bit of sticky rice and a beer on the side to quell the heat.

Also, don’t eat the galangal or lemon grass; I suppose you could, but they’re really just for flavor and quite woody.

 

Butternut Squash Bisque

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I love lobster bisque. After attempting to make it at home I decided I hate the cost of the ingredients. And cooking lobster and shrimp shells down into stock makes my home smell like low tide. Recently at a cafe in Austin I had out-of-this-world Tomato Bisque. It was truly great, much better than I ever thought it would be. If I hadn’t been eating lunch with the CEO of my company I would have totally stuck my head in that bowl and licked it clean. The thing about tomato bisque, however, is that it’s too similar to the tomato based sauces I make and it’s not Autumnish enough for me. I live in the capital of Texas, a place that – thanks to global warming – is now completely void of all seasons. There’s Lesser Summer during November through March, and then Seventh Circle of Hell Summer April through October. Take today for example. It’s November 13th and it’s 87 degrees out. Awesome. Yes, I mean that sarcastically. The leaves that have turned color have only done so because we’re experiencing a multi-year long drought and all plant matter turns brown and shrivels when it dies. There’s no romance about it.

In an attempt to relive the New England fall weather of my wasted youth, I try to make Autumn occur in other ways. I burn Apple Cinnamon candles, I hang my dust covered fall coats in easy to reach areas, I obsess over brown leather boots. And I begin a half-assed love affair with the butternut squash.

Butternut squash is….meh. It’s okay. It’s no fennel. But, you know, it tries and it’s very Fallesque. So, I decided to make Butternut Bisque.

All the recipes I read were all very sweet or too plain: Butternut Squash & Brown Sugar Bisque, Butternut Squash & Cinnamon Bisque, Mother’s Basic Butternut Bisque. I wanted something that emulated the Tomato Bisque flavor, but used Butternut squash as it’s base. So I started with bacon.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I started by roasting the squash and then half way through adding carrots to roast with said squash. One decent sized squash peeled & cubed, which made about 4 cups, and, roughly, 1 cup carrots.

Please excuse my half eaten lunch in the back round of the above picture. Austin, like most major US cities, has quite the “China Town” area and we found a little Vietnamese place that does AMAZING pork buns. So good.

I roasted the squash for 45 minutes at 500. After 25 minutes, I added the carrots. Once the 45 minutes of roasting was up, my house smelled fantastic – like Mega Fall – and my squash/carrot mixture looked like this:

I suppose I could have roasted the squash and carrots while prepping the other parts of the recipe, but I finally found the minikit detector in my Lego Star Wars video game and was just flying through levels. Once the squarrots were out of the oven, it was time to get down to business.

What makes everything better? Bacon. What makes everything even better-er? Cooking everything in bacon fat. I took 2 strips of center cut bacon, threw them in the bottom of a heavy pot and rendered the shit out of them. It looked like this:

Once I felt enough fat had cooked out of the bacon, I removed what was left of the strips. I then added 2 large, finely chopped cloves of garlic, 1 stalk of roughly chopped celery (something I’d leave out in the future, truth be told), and half of a white onion, chopped. I cooked those over medium heat until they were tender. It took about 8 minutes, so I had a cup of tea. It looked like this:

That’s my favorite mug. It was free and had some website name on it. I scraped all the letters off accept for the “O”, which I edited into a “C”, for the first letter of my married name. It’s great.

Anyway, once the other veg was tender, I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of flour over everything to help absorb all those fabulous flavors and to act like a thickening agent, stirring continuously for about three minutes. I then added only 3 cups of chicken stock. What I should have done was mixed in 2 cups chicken stock and 2 to 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, but hindsight’s 20/20. I added the squash and carrots and let everything just hangout to reach a boil. Upon hearing the boil, I sprinted down the hall from my bedroom video game fest back to the kitchen, and I added 1 bay leaf and about 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. I turned the heat down to a simmer, and left the bisque there to think about what it had done. About 30 minutes.

Once the half hour of sensational simmering had passed, I removed the pot from the heat to let it cool.

It’s not glamorous, I know. Like in war, these are simply what the realities of making a bisque look like, and it’s not pretty. Once the bisque cooled I blended the ever loving crap out of it with an immersion hand blender. I love that thing. Of course, it splattered most of my kitchen orange, but it worked like a charm. I probably could have kept things cleaner if I wasn’t also watching Troll Hunter on Netflix, a fantastic import from Norway that I highly recommend. Super entertaining. Yes, there’s subtitles; I don’t want to say what I think about people who won’t watch a movie just because there are subtitles. Troll Hunter is great. Watch it.

Once the bisque was at a smooth, bisque-like consistency, I added about 2/3 cup of heavy cream. Sure, this is optional, but when I say “optional” in reference to heavy cream, I don’t really mean it. I also like to swirl in a little more cream, or even just regular milk on top when I sit down to a bowl ‘o’ bisque, so I didn’t go throwing a full pint of heavy cream in all at once, like I had read on many recipes. I then garnished with a sprig of parsley and a piece of the uber cooked bacon.

It was good, it really was. You can tell from the picture it was a bit on the thick side, and when I reheat the rest I may throw in that extra cup or so of veggie stock I’d mentioned, but other than that my husband loved it and I…liked it…You know what? I’m just not a huge fan of butternut squash. Probably because it’s not a lobster.