Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snooping for Soup - Part III

Mommy's Chicken Noodle Soup

Mommy's Chicken Noodle Soup

I think we can all agree that nothing is more comforting on a rainy or snowy day than a hot bowl of chicken soup. Not only is chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food, warming us inside and out, but it's also been proven to help fight colds and flus. I can make this soup in my sleep, and after doing it for the first time in a while, I can see why. Chicken soup - though time consuming - is actually pretty easy to make. All it takes is a basic knowledge of the ingredients, which you then gather, throw into a pot and boil until the water has absorbed all the goodness from the chicken and veggies. Strain out the chicken and veg, add some noodles, and presto! You have chicken noodle soup! The broth in this recipe will keep for about 4 days in fridge and can be eaten as is, with noodles, or frozen in blocks or ice cube trays and thawed as needed for use in soups, stir fries, or as a braising liquid.

Here's How You Do It
Total Prep and Cook Time: Approximately 2.5 hours.
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

2 lbs of Chicken Wings or Chicken Bones - I used wings for this recipe because they're cheap and meaty, but if you can find chicken bones, which are cheaper, or have the carcass of a leftover roast or rotisserie chicken, you can use that instead

3 Large or Medium Carrots - scrubbed of all dirt and the tough woody bit at the end removed - you can peel these if you want, but you don't have to

2 Parsnips - scrubbed and the tough woody bit at the end removed - these are a white root vegetable that look a lot like carrots but aren't. Peeled, boiled and mashed, they make a nice alternative to mashed potatoes, and are great fried up as chips too! Like the carrots, you can peel these for the soup if you want, but you don't have to

3 Stalks aka Ribs of Celery - rinsed of all dirt, the very bit at the wider end removed, and cut in half

2 Medium Onions - Cut in Half but not peeled - I have no idea why peeling the onions isn't necessary, I just know it works.

1 Small Bunch of fresh Dill (Optional) - a bunch about 1/2 an inch across plus more - finely chopped - to top the soup with - this is an herb that adds great flavor to the soup and can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. The soup I grew up with always had dill in it, but if you don't like, you don't have to add it. Want to give it a try but don't know what to look for? Here's a picture.
Fresh Dill


6 to 8 Cups of Water + More for boiling your noodles - The amount depends mainly on the size of your pot

Salt - to taste

1/2 of a 375 g Pkg of Egg Noodles - see the image below - Unlike the pasta we usually eat, egg noodles are softer, thinner, and tend to cook more quickly. They come in sizes ranging from short and fine to extra broad. They're usually either found in the pasta section or among the canned and powdered soups in the grocery store. If you're cholesterol conscious, there's even a brand of egg noodles made without yolks. These noodles are great in chicken soup, but they also make a nice side dish for stews when boiled, strained, and tossed in a little butter or margarine.
Egg Noodles

Equipment

1 Large Pot

1 Cooking Spoon with a long handle

1 Cutting Board

1 Heat Proof Bowl - A metal mixing bowl or sturdy glass bowl will do the job just fine

1 Metal Strainer

1 Regular or Medium Metal Bowl

1 Trivet - that's the technical term for that thing you stick under pots to keep them from burning the counter

1 Medium or Large Pot - for boiling your egg noodles

4 Plastic containers with lids - 1 for your broth or stock, 1 for your egg noodles, 1 for your cooked carrots, and 1 for your cooked chicken.

In your large pot, dump the chicken, bunch of dill, onions, carrots, celery, and parsnips.

Add enough water to cover the chicken and make the vegetables float.

Bring the whole thing to a boil.

Lower the heat and keep it bubbling, uncovered for an hour.

As it's bubbling away, you'll notice a white foam rising to the top of the soup. Most people call this the "scum", but I call it "soup scum" because it's more specific and the name adds a nice ring to something that's quite nasty looking. The scum is actually protein, and while you don't HAVE to skim it off, I do, as I find it produces a nicer, clearer soup broth. To skim the scum off, take your long handled spoon and run the scoop part sideways across the surface of the bubbling broth making sure to gather as much foam as possible without taking out too much of the liquid broth. See the images below.
Chicken Soup Scum
 
Chicken Soup Scum Skimming
Dump the scum into a regular or small metal bowl. This will take a few passes of your spoon over the bubbling soup but I assure you, it's worth it.

Discard the soup scum.

Once the vegetables in the soup are soft, take the pot off the heat and put it on a trivet on the counter.

Let the soup cool for a half an hour.

Put your heat proof bowl in the sink or on a trivet on the counter.

Put your metal strainer in the bowl.

CAREFULLY, without spilling anything, pour the contents of your large pot into the strainer and set the pot aside.

Lift the strainer and shake it gently to get all the broth from the solids into the bowl.

Pour the broth back into the pot and taste it.

If it tastes too chickeney, add some water to it, a cup at a time, until it's as you like it.

Add some salt, a teaspoon at a time, stirring after each addition, until the broth is salty enough for you. I like to add the salt at the end because a lot of my friends - not to mention my parents - are salt sensitive. If you want to be extra careful, serve the soup unsalted and let them add their own.

It's now good to go...

...Unless you want it low fat, of course.

IF you want a low fat broth, cool the broth to room temperature on the counter, cover it, and then put the pot in the fridge. If the pot won't fit, put the broth in a large plastic container, close it, and then put it in fridge.

Cool the broth for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the lid. The fat will have solidified and risen to the top - see the image below - where you can easily take it off with a spoon or clean rubber gloved hands and discard it. The broth can then be reheated for soup or frozen.

The stuff on the surface is the chicken fat - it will melt and become clear if heated with the soup or you can simply remove it
To turn this chicken soup into chicken noodle soup, all you need to do is add noodles, chicken, and if you like 'em, carrots.

To cook the egg noodles, in a medium or large clean pot, boil them until tender (do a taste test to make sure) - approximately 2 to 5 minutes depending on the size of your egg noodles. Strain 'em out and put them in a container until you're ready to assemble and serve your soup. I always keep the soup and noodles separate until serving time because I find the noodles get too mushy and gummy if you keep them in the broth.

Remember the veg and chicken you used to make the chicken broth?

Unfortunately - as I hate waste - most of this should be thrown out. However, you can salvage the carrots and chicken if you like them in your chicken soup. Simply remove the skin - if using the wings - from the chicken, and pull the meat off the bones. The chicken will be very soft, so it should pop right off. The carrots can be put in the soup as is, or you can chop them up and then put them in the soup.

Like the noodles, I prefer to keep the chicken and carrots separate in the fridge until serving time.

TO ASSEMBLE THE SOUP

If the broth is cool, heat it up in a pot on the stove or in plastic container in the microwave. The broth might be a bit gelatinous right out of the fridge but I can assure you it will liquefy once heated.

Put some noodles, chicken, and if you like em, cooked carrots, in your soup bowls, and then pour the hot broth over them.

Top with some fresh chopped dill and you're ready serve!

Enjoy!

The holidays are a-coming and that means most of us will be celebrating!

Since partying can be so expensive, I'm doing my next series on budget-friendly alcoholic beverages.

So stick around!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.










Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Snooping for Soup - Part 2

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup
Soup cookery all too often gets a bum rap for being tedious and time consuming. Hot and Sour Soup is the exception to that rule, taking as little as 30 minutes to prepare. An Asian cross between egg drop and mushroom soup, it's hearty, filling and delicious. I learned to make it in college when I had a craving for Hot and Sour and didn't feel like going to a Chinese restaurant to get it. For all you meat lovers and/or tofu haters, don't be put off by the tofu, the other stuff in this soup gives it plenty of flavour while still maintaining its silky texture.

Here's How You Do It
Prep and Cook Time: Approximately 30 minutes TOTAL
Serves 4


Ingredients

4 Cups or 1 Carton (900 ml) of Chicken or Vegetable Broth


7 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms - These can be found in any Asian market labelled simply as "Dried Mushrooms". See the image below. Though you won't need the whole bag, these will keep for a long time and can be rehydrated as needed for use in soups and stir fries. Can't find em'? No problem! Use another type of dried mushroom instead. They're available in most major grocery stores.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
1/2 Cup of Soft Tofu - sliced into thin strips. Made from soybeans, Tofu is an extremely versatile ingredient as it can be used in savory things like soups or stir fries, and sweet ones like smoothies and non dairy ice cream. It's usually found in the produce section of the grocery store among the organic salad dressings and vegetarian meat alternatives. If you like tofu and have access to an Asian market, buy it from there, as you can get a large tub of the stuff for about 2 bucks.



1/4 Cup of Sliced or Shredded Bamboo Shoots - OPTIONAL - Great in soups, salads, and stir fries, you can find these in a can already shredded or sliced in most Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of some major grocery stores. See the image below so you know what to look for. If the pieces are too big for your taste, you can always cut 'em thinner as I did. While they do add great texture and crunch to this soup, they're not necessary.
Canned Bamboo Shoots

1 Egg - Beaten with a fork

1 Tablespoon of Corn Starch mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Water - this mix is also known as a "Slurry" and will thicken your soup

6 Tablespoons of Vinegar - I used Apple Cider Vinegar in this recipe, but you could also use Plain White or Rice vinegar instead. This puts the "sour" in Hot and Sour Soup. Try to stay away from wine and flavored vinegars, as the taste will overpower the soup.

4 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce

1/8 of a Teaspoon aka a drop of Sesame Oil - a little of this stuff goes a VERY long way.

1 Fresh or Dried Chilli - Crushed 
OR
1  Teaspoon of Hot Sauce
OR
To Taste 
OPTIONAL 
If you don't like and/or can't have spicy food, leave it out.

Salt - to taste - If you're salt sensitive, go easy, as soy sauce has plenty.

Pepper - to taste

1 Green Onion aka Scallion - Cleaned and thinly sliced - this is the only topping your soup will need, and adds a nice oniony brightness and colour.

Equipment

1 Medium Pot

1 Ladle or Serving Spoon

3 Regular Bowls

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cup(s)

1 Knife

1 Fork

1 Regular Spoon - for stirring up your slurry

1 Cutting Board

Can Opener

Plastic Wrap or Aluminum Foil  a Plate big enough to cover 1 of your regular bowls

In the first regular bowl, pour hot water over the dried mushrooms and cover with a plate, foil, or plastic wrap.

Leave them for at least 15 minutes or until soft and sliceable.

While the mushrooms are rehydrating, get your other ingredients together.

In another regular bowl, beat your egg.

In your third regular bowl, mix your cornstarch and water.

Using your trusty knife and cutting board, slice up your tofu.

Open your can of Bamboo Shoots (if using) and measure out the amount you need.

With a sharp knife, cut a 1/4 inch off the end of your green onion, give it a quick rinse, dry it with a clean paper or tea towel, and then thinly slice and set aside.

After 15 minutes, take the mushrooms out of the hot water. If using the dried shiitake mushrooms, carefully remove and discard the stems. They're tough and inedible.

Using your knife and cutting board, slice the mushrooms into thin strips.

You are now ready to get cooking.

In a medium pot on medium-high heat, add the vinegar, soy sauce, chili or hot sauce, and sesame oil.

Give it a stir and add the mushrooms, tofu, and bamboo shoots.

Bring to a boil and stir in your beaten egg, mixing constantly for 1 or 2 minutes in order to fully cook the egg.

Now add your cornstarch and water mixture and stir well so it doesn't form lumps in your soup.

Simmer the soup, uncovered for 1 more minute and give it a taste, adding salt and pepper if you think it's not Hot and Sour enough.

Ladle it into bowls and top with the sliced green onion.

Presto!

You've made Hot and Sour Soup!

Next week I'll be teaching you that all time comfort classic : Chicken Soup!

So keep reading!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Snooping for Soup - Part 1

Squashed Squash Soup with Cilantro Lime Cream

If you live in one of the chillier parts of North America as I do, you know that we have a long and nasty winter ahead. We're talking blizzards, ice, sub zero temperatures, and an entire population of disgruntled people cursing Mother Nature. There are many ways to fight the cold: layered clothing, thick down coats, hot beverages, and foods that warm us both inside and out. It is on that note that I present you with this series on soups.

I learned to make soups not from my mother, but because she, despite being an AMAZING cook, has yet to master soups (with one exception: her chicken soup is wonderful!). Most of my mother's soups are fit to insulate the walls rather than one's stomach. After eating one too many of her "experiments", I made it my culinary mission to master at least 3 soups. On this mission, I learned to make Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, my mother's Chicken Soup, and Butternut Squash and Curry. Once I got the principles of soup making down, I was able to expand my repertoire and am constantly doing so.

For those unseasoned cooks, I present you with the same mission...

Should you choose to accept it, of course.

In this and the next 2 entries, you'll find 3 recipes to get you started.

Good luck!

Squashed Squash Soup with Cilantro Lime Cream

I have to confess that before I discovered that you could make squash into a soup, I didn't like it. I found it too sweet, too starchy, and reminiscent of baby food when mashed or pureed. And then I started playing with spices and seasonings and discovered that squash can be lovely if flavored correctly and presented in a smooth soup. It is with this discovery that I developed this one. It's ridiculously easy to make, and the cilantro lime cream, while not necessary, makes it extra special by adding a refreshing citrusy richness.

Here's How You Do It

Ingredients

SOUP

1 Large Butternut Squash - about 4.5 pounds - most grocery stores will have a scale that you can weigh it in. I chose Butternut Squash because they're currently in season and easily recognizable. Just in case don't know what to look for, here's a picture.
Butternut Squash
5 or 6 Cups of Water

1 Tablespoon of Curry Powder

1 Tablespoon of Grated Fresh or Frozen Ginger Root - Ginger root can now be found in almost any grocery store that carries fresh fruits and vegetables. It's usually kept near the onions and garlic. Peeled and sliced, it can be added to stir fries and curries, and grated, to marinades, salad dressings, soups, and even teas. Ginger root is great for the stomach, and keeps for a few weeks in the fridge. I keep mine in the freezer where it will stay fresh even longer and once frozen, will be even easier to grate. Don't know what to look for?  Here's a picture of a small piece.
 
Ginger Root


Salt and Pepper - to taste

CILANTRO LIME CREAM

1 Cup of Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt

1/2 Cup of chopped, fresh Cilantro

Juice and Zest of half a Lime

Salt - to taste - optional

Equipment

1 Large Pot with Lid

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Potato Peeler

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cups

1 Box Grater

1 Regular Spoon

1 Potato Masher or Immersion/Hand Blender - the latter looks like the motor of a boat with a handle. See Choose Your Weapons! You can buy one in any store that carries small appliances now for as little as 20 bucks

1 Slotted Spoon

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Regular Bowl or Plastic Container

Oven Mitts

Carefully slice the squash down the middle and scoop out the seeds and thready bits in the hollow on the inside of the base. See the images below. You can now CAREFULLY - as raw squash is quite tough - peel the tough outer skin off the squash with a peeler or with a (small) paring knife. 


Cut the peeled squash into chunks and dump them in your pot. Add about 6 cups of water or just enough to make the squash float a bit.

Put the pot on the stove and bring the contents to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, positioning the lid so a little steam is escaping, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. You can test for tenderness by pulling a chunk out of the pot with a slotted spoon, putting it on a plate or cutting board and trying to mash it with a fork or your potato masher. See the image below. If it mashes easily, the squash is ready. If it doesn't... and/or goes flying across the room... it probably needs more time.


Turn off the heat and let the contents cool for at least 10 minutes.

You can now squash your squash in the water using your trusty potato masher OR if you like your soup extra smooth, use an immersion blender. If you opt to use the blender, BE CAREFUL! Hot liquid and puree tends to splatter a bit during blending, so be sure to wear an apron or old T-shirt and use your free hand to use the pot lid as a shield when doing this.

Add the Curry Powder, put the pot back on the heat, and boil for another 10 minutes or so to bring out the flavor of the curry.  

Remove from the heat and stir in the Ginger.

Season it with Salt and Pepper to your taste and serve as is or with the Lime Cilantro Cream.

To make the cream, rinse a handful of fresh cilantro (leaves and stems but not the roots) to get the dirt off and then either dry it with paper towel or shake it vigorously. For added fun, you can do this to music, or shake the water onto an unsuspecting loved one.

Chop the cilantro as finely as you can and put it in a bowl or plastic container. Add the yogurt or sour cream, lime zest (outer skin of the lime grated right off the lime using your trusty box grater), and mix well. Give it a taste. If it's tart enough for you, you're ready to go! If not, season it with a little salt. You could also make this cream in the food processor if you have one, but the food processor will most likely make the cream runnier as processing the fresh cilantro will bring out more of the water in it.

To serve your soup with the Cilantro Cream, scoop some hot soup into a bowl and put a healthy spoonful of the cilantro cream in the center. To make it look extra fancy, you can top it with a little more fresh chopped cilantro.

Serves 6 people or 1 person for at least a week if kept in the fridge, depending on appetite. 

Next time I'll be teaching you my personal favorite: Chinese Hot and Sour Soup!

So stick around!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.