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Category Archives: The Ultimate Soup Bible

Cooking Thai Chicken Soup

As I’m slowly discovering, I’m a big fan of Thai food or at least the combination of lime, chicken and coconut that I’ve been experiencing in the recipes I’ve tried. One such recipe was found in The Ultimate Soup Bible called Thai Chicken Soup (page 304). This one was so good that we’ve had it twice in a fairly short period of time which almost never happens.

The recipe calls for creamed coconut or coconut cream, but I couldn’t find those and went with a 13.5 oz can of coconut milk. I also skipped out on the cilantro and red chilies because those aren’t flavors we’re real keen on. Otherwise, though, this went along pretty smoothly. After cooking a chopped up garlic clove in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven, I cut up two chicken breasts into cubes and cooked them1/4 teaspoon of chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.

While the chicken cooks for three or four minutes, I mixed 3.5 cups of warmed chicken stock with the can of coconut milk. When the chicken was done, I added the stock/milk mixture and then stirred in two tablespoons of smooth peanut butter, the juice of a large lemon and a few ounces of thin egg noodles. You cover that and then simmer for 15 minutes.

At that time, I toasted some sweetened coconut flakes that we had in the pantry. The recipe calls for unsweetened, but this seemed to work out pretty well, though you do need to make sure they don’t burn which can happen pretty quickly. After the 15 minutes are up, you throw in some cut up green onions and parsley — dried or fresh, whatever you have on hand — and then cook for another five minutes. To serve, I simply sprinkled the soup with the cooked (almost candied, really) coconut. This is such a nice, sweet and sour soup with a nice little crunch thanks to the coconut.

Even though we first tried this soup a while ago, it stuck around in my mind and seemed like a good choice to try again now that it’s getting cold out. The second time around I used limes, because that’s what I had on hand, and didn’t include the toasted coconut because I must have used up what little we had in the pantry when I made it the first time. I wish I would have remembered my one complaint from the first time I made the soup, though: there’s not enough of it! Next time I bust out the Thai Chicken Soup, I think I’m going to double it.

MacGyvering Thai-Style Lentil, Coconut & Green Bean Soup

Do you have a blindspot when it comes to a certain aspect of cooking? I do and it comes in the form of the slow cooker. For some reason, my mind always forgets to remind me that I need to actually get those dinners ready until there’s not enough time. With ingredients ready to go bad in the next few days and a need for a dish, I took to my trust copy of The Ultimate Soup Bible and did a little digging.

After looking up a few soups by ingredient, I realized I had most of what I’d need to follow the recipe for Thai-Style Lentil & Coconut Soup (p. 123), plus a bag of green beans, so I got to work. I had to make a few changes for this one. First off, I didn’t have sunflower oil, red onions, a Thai chili, lemongrass or cilantro so I swapped out for peanut oil, a yellow onion and shallot and omitted the rest.

I cooked two chopped onions, two cloves of garlic and the cleaned and broken-up green beans in some peanut oil for five minutes before adding 7 ounces of lentils (I had regular, not red), a teaspoon of coriander that I warmed and ground myself as well as a teaspoon of paprika. Then the can of coconut milk went in followed by 3 3/4 cups of water. I brought that to a boil and then simmered for 45 minutes. When that was done I added the juice from a lime and some sliced scallions. And thus a soup was born!

I’m sure the recipe as written has a much greater depth of flavor thanks to the additional heat from the chili (which I probably would have skipped anyway) and the lemongrass, but I thought this worked out pretty well for a quickly MacGyvered meal. For an extra bit of protein and saltiness, I put some lightly salted roasted peanuts on top of mine which helped round things out.

Soup’s Off

I love making soup, you guys. It’s one of the reasons I like fall so much, spending some time with a pot, some stock, vegetables and usually meat all mixing it up together on my stove. What’s not to like? Well, a lot if you’re a baby, apparently. As the weather turned cooler a few weeks back, I got really excited and broke out my copy of The Ultimate Soup Bible and started checking out new recipes to try. One week I made Cauliflower Cannellini & Fennel Soup (page 221) which you can see above  and the next I made Mediterranean Sausage & Pesto Soup (page 327) which is below. Neither blew my mind, but they were both good soups that made me feel warm and full, which is pretty much my criteria.

But, as I mentioned above, babies aren’t the biggest fans of soup. Even Lu, who’s gotten really good with her tiny utensils, didn’t find much to get excited about when presented with a mini bowl of soup. It’s something I didn’t even think of in my rush to get soup-ed up, but it either doesn’t look appetizing to her or she really wants to eat it herself which will just lead to a huge mess on our hands. I’m bummed out, but I’ve put soup on the backburner as far as meal planning goes for the time being (puns!).

Cooking Southern American Succotash Soup With Chicken

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Being from Toledo, Ohio from parents who were both from Ohio, I had pretty limited exposure to southern food. We didn’t have a lot of barbecue places around from what I remember, though there are a number of ones in town now. And, as far as I knew, succotash was something only preceded by “sufferin’” in cartoon character exclamations. When I was flipping through the Chicken and Duck Soups chapter of The Ultimate Soup Bible, I stumbled upon a recipe for something called American Southern Succotash Soup With Chicken (page 296) that sounded pretty amazing. Anything with corn, bacon and chicken is aces in my book, so I decided to give it a whirl.

And it turned out pretty fantastic, plus the recipe isn’t all the difficult. You start off boiling some chicken breasts in chicken broth for bout 15 minutes. While those were going, I got to work on prep, chopping up a few strips of bacon, two onions and some parsley. When that was good to go, I started making the base of the soup which involved cooking the onions in butter for a handful of minutes. To that I added the bacon. My wife doesn’t really like squishy bacon in soups, so I tried to get it a little crispier. You then add in some flour to thicken, the hot stock from the chicken (which had been removed after it was done cooking and set aside for chopping) and some corn.

My grocery store didn’t have fresh corn, which was weird because they did a few weeks ago, so I went with frozen. You also add some milk and let that cook for about 15 minutes. Then you add in the cut up chicken, the lima beans and the rest of the milk and you are ready to go. I’m sure it would have been even better with fresh corn, but I think it turned out really well. It was thick and creamy without using cream, which I appreciated, but did have bacon and beans and chicken which all mingled together in a very satisfying and filling meal. Bonus points for being equally good if not better when reheated. Definitely give this one a try when you’ve got a colder day on your hands this summer.

Cooking A Potage Of Yellow Split Peas

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This recipe is based on the Potage of Lentils recipe from The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 208), which I didn’t intend to put a spin on, but I mistakenly thought I had lentils in my pantry when instead I had yellow split peas. After I realized I goofed up a bit, I figured I’d give the whole thing a shot with the yellow split peas and you know what? It turned out pretty good.

Like a lot of soups, this one was mostly prep followed by putting things in the pot in the right order. I started off chopping up celery carrots, garlic and potato even though chopped onions were the first thing that actually went into the hot olive oil in the pot. After all that cooked for a few minutes, I added in the yellow split peas and vegetable broth and simmered for 30 minutes.

At that point, I tossed in two bay leaves, a halved lemon and more garlic. This cooked for ten minutes before removing the lemons and bay leaves, squeezing the juice from another lemon in and giving the whole thing a stir. I let it cool down a bit and then transferred all the soup into the food processor and gave it whirl (heh). Once that was all set, I returned it to the pot and added cumin, some green Tobasco, salt and pepper. Boom, done.

This turned out to be a great little soup that worked well with my unintended tampering. It kind of reminded me of a soupier hummus, but with more citrus zing. We had this back when we were getting a pretty brutal cold snap a few weeks back, but I think I’ll definitely give it another shot when the weather turns cold again. I don’t know about you guys, but I just can’t wrap my head around soup in the summer.

Cooking Genoese Ministrone Soup

I was originally a little intimidated when it came to the recipe for Genoese Minestrone Soup found in The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 444) because of the laundry list of ingredients. But, upon closer inspection, I realized that most of them were just vegetables. I enjoy chopping, so I added celery, carrots, green beans, zucchini, potato, eggplant, cannellini beans, plum tomatoes, pasta, vegetable broth and pesto sauce to my grocery list. That’s pretty much all that goes into this recipe and I thought it wound up making a very tasty soup with tons of veggies.

First up, you cook the carrot, onion and celery in a pan in oil, then add in the beans, zucchini and potato (it also called for cabbage, but I skipped that for lack of anything to do with the rest of the head) and cook a bit more. Pop the eggplant, beans and tomatoes in, cook a few more minutes and then add the stock, salt and pepper and simmer for 40 minutes. At this point, you’re supposed to make your own, pesto, but I was feeling a bit lazy and am too cheap to buy a $10 jar of pine nuts, so I went with the jarred stuff.

After cooking for 40 minutes, you add the pasta, let simmer for five minutes and then add the pesto and simmer for another two or three minutes and you’ve got some soup on your hands. You can’t really tell from the pictures, but the soup turned out a lot thicker than I expected. The picture in the cookbook makes it look pretty clean and clear. Maybe I didn’t use the right amount of broth, but even though it didn’t look all too pretty, I thought it tasted great. All those vegetables mixed together really well with the broth and the noodles added some texture and beans some protein. All in all, this was yet another great recipe from one of my most consistently reliable cookbooks!

Cooking Mushroom Soup

I love mushrooms, but my wife isn’t such a big fan. I’ve been slowly introducing them into some of the dishes we eat and I think she’s turning the corner a bit, but I try not to push the subject too much. I had bought a bunch of mushrooms for some recipe that fell through the cracks and was therefore left with a package of baby portabellas and a mixed pack that included more baby portabellas, shitake and another kind I can’t quite remember. I didn’t want to waste them, so I flipped through the Ultimate Soup Bible and came across a Mushroom Soup recipe n page 182. I had all the ingredients and some time one day, so I made it for myself for lunch and it turned out pretty great.

Basically, you put some butter and oil in your soup pot and cook one chopped onion and four chopped potatoes in oil and butter and let them sweat for 5-10 minutes until browned. Then you toss in 12 ounces of chopped mushrooms along with one or two garlic cloves and either apple cider or white wine (I went with a mixture of white wine vinegar and water that gave it a tangy taste). After that cooked for 15 minutes, I ladled the soup into our larger food processor and wound up with some smooth mushroom soup. The recipe called for the addition of sour cream, which I tried later and was quite good, but at first I added half and half because that’s what I had in the house.

The half and half didn’t quite add the right flavor that the sour cream did, so I would recommend sticking to that part of the recipe. I wound up eating this soup throughout the day because I was so taken with the flavors. It is VERY mushr0omy, so I didn’t bother trying to have my wife try it, but a pretty simple recipe wound up giving me lunch for the next few days. I was happy with the results.

Stocking Up: Beef

Alright, folks, this post has been a long time coming. After making my own chicken stock, I decided to give beef stock a whirl as well and it went really well, except when I burned my hand. The key to making beef stock is finding a place to buy beef bones, which I hear can be difficult, but I happened to be at my local Hannaford one day and they had big ones for sale. With those in hand, I busted out The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 32) and got to work.

I’m not sure how much of a difference it made, but the cow bones I got were not chopped up and I half-heartedly tried with my knife and failed, so I just put three of those big boys in a high-sided pan in the over at 450 degrees and got to chopping. Like most stocks, the recipe called for carrots, celery and onion, but also tomatoes. I got those and the herbs (parsley and thyme) as well as crushed black peppercorns and a bay leaf ready while the bones roasted for a half hour.

After the half hour mark, I added in the vegetables and roasted for another 25 minutes or so. At that point, I dumped the contents of the pan in the stock pot and boiled some water like the recipe suggested. While the water boiled I started doing something else–can’t remember what exactly–and accidentally reached for the handle of the pan…that was in the 450 degree oven…without a glove or a cover on the handle and burned the heck out of my hand.

I immediately got my hand under cold running water and soon transferred to a bowl of ice water (more on injury treatment in another post along with a few other dumb injuries I’ve sustained in the past month or so). While I kept a nasty burn and possibly blisters at bay on my right hand, I kept going with the stock-making. I poured the boiling water from the pan into the pot followed by about 18-inches of water and set it to boil along with the herbs and spices.

I simmered for six hours (I read in a Bourdain book that the longer, the better), then strained and let the stock cool. This time, I knew about how much liquid I would have, so after it cooled, I placed the stock in a big plastic bowl and popped it in the refrigerator. I left it there over night and when I went back to strain the fat, I was happy to find that it had solidified into a disk that I could easily remove, which is a heckuva lot easier than skimming, I’ll tell you that.

Instead of freezing ice cubes of stock this time around, I used my mother-in-law’s idea and instead measured out one and two cup amounts, poured that into marked bags and froze those bags in larger freezer bags. As I mentioned in the post about making Alton Brown’s recipe for Swedish Meatballs, I’ve already used the stock and it’s pretty great. The only problem with this method is that you wind up wasting the tiny bags when you tear them apart to get the stock out. The perfect solution would be ice cube trays with one and/or two cup sized holes. Do they make those? That’d be awesome.

Cooking Herb & Beef Soup with Yogurt & Naan

As I’ve said a few times here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen, I’m a big fan of soups and The Ultimate Soup Bible has become, well, my soup bible. If I’m looking for a soup recipe, I’m looking in there. I was flipping through a week or two back and landed on this one called Beef & Herb Soup With Yogurt (page 458). It sounded pretty interesting with what I thought was Indian origins–it’s actually Iranian I just saw) especially because it’s kind of a Middle Eastern version of Italian Wedding soup, which the bagel shop I used to work at back in Toledo used to serve.

As usual, I got as much prep done ahead of time. I combined five cups of water with a half cup of yellow split peas and one tablespoon of turmeric in a big container. I also combined a cup of brown basmanti rice and about three tablespoons of parsley and chives in a smaller bowl. Then I chopped an onion up and cooked that in olive oil in a Dutch oven. Once that turned brown, I added the water, peas and turmeric and simmered for 20 minutes.

While that was simmering, I made the meatballs which were made with about 8 ounces of ground beef, a chopped onion and some salt and pepper. As you can see in the photo, I kept them pretty tiny, thought not nearly as small as the ones I remember from my old Italian Wedding days at Barry’s.

I dropped the meatballs in after the 20 minute simmer and let simmer again for 10 minutes. Then I added the rice, parsley and chives (the recipe called for cilantro, but my wife hates that particular herb, so I skipped it) and simmered again for 30 minutes. In a smaller pan, I melted one tablespoon of butter and fried a chopped clove of garlic before then adding a handful of chopped mint. That got added to the soup before serving and then I laid out some more freshly chopped mint, Greek yogurt (that’s the only non fruity kind I could find at the store) and naan. I will not get the garlic naan next time because it was very overpowering, but all in all the soup was pretty good. I think next time I will add some acid, either lemon or lime juice, and maybe some curry powder to really round out the flavors because it did wind up tasting a bit flat.

Stocking Up: Chicken

One of the common things I’ve read in most of the cookbooks and books about food is that making your own stock is important. Not only do you know exactly what goes into it, but you’re also creating something very basic that you can use in many, many things. I’d been wanting to try my hand at stocks for along time now, but only actually got around to it in the past month. Why the delay? I was a little worried about the time commitment, plus I wasn’t quite needing stock yet. Now that it’s getting cold and I’m making more soup, I figured it would be a good time.

I started with a chicken stock recipe that I got out of The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 30) because it was an actual recipe. Anthony Bourdain had a much less specific one in  The Les Halles Cook Book, but I wanted to do it by the book and have my hand held for a bit before eying everything.

The recipe called for bone-in chicken pieces that included wings, back and necks, but I couldn’t find that at the grocery store and the butcher wasn’t around, so I went with a pair of bone-in breasts. Not sure how much difference that made, but otherwise, I followed the recipe.

I tossed the chicken, two unpeeled onions and some oil in a stock pot and started cooking until everything was brown. While that cooked, I chopped up two carrots and two celery stalks, grabbed some parsley and thyme stems, a bay leaf and ground about a dozen black peppercorns. I put all that in a container and waited until they were needed.

Once everything was browned, I filled the pot with 16 cups of water and waited for a boil. Once I got there, I dumped the container of veggies and herbs and simmered for three hours. After that, I strained out all the solids and let the stock sit. I tried scraping out fat and did my best, but came up with a much better method that I’ll talk about when I write about making beef stock.

Anyway, I had read in many places that making stock ice cubes is the way to go, so after everything cooled, I got to work on that. It was a multi-part project because we only had two extra ice cube trays and not a lot of space in our freezer anyway. I now have two bags filled with chicken stock cubes ready to go. I took about 10 or 12 back home for Thanksgiving intending to use them instead of turkey stock to make the gravy, but wound up making my own turkey stock. It didn’t go to waste though, because my mom used them in the stuffing.

I’m really glad I did this, not just because I feel like I’ve done something that not a lot of people do, but also because I finally just did it. Sometimes things seem like big hurdles, but once you finally do them, they turn out to be pretty easy. Sure, you’ve got to be home to keep an eye on the stock as it simmers, but aside from that it’s really easy and worth doing. I hope to make some killer winter soups now!

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