Sunday, April 22, 2012

Shrimp Soup with Rice Noodles and Greens

I had fully intended to join a soup blog challenge this month; unfortunately, my first attempt was derailed by spoiled chicken. Probably spoiled chicken. Potentially spoiled chicken. I opened up a package of chicken thighs I had bought the previous day and noticed a subtle, but distinct off-smell. I'm willing to believe it was my imagination, or that I could have cooked it and survived unscathed, but some risks aren't worth taking. I ended up with a full refund for it which I rolled over into the shrimp for this soup. Which may not exactly be Chinese (seems slightly Vietnamese to me), but it worked out well.

1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and ideally deveined
32 oz. chicken broth
6 oz. rice noodles, soaked for 15 minutes in hot water
1/2 lb. baby bok choy, leaves peeled off
2 cloves garlic minced
1 onion chopped
1 small carrot, chopped.
Cooking oil
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
Salt & pepper
1 bunch scallions, roots and greens removed.

Sauté the garlic, onion, and carrot in the oil until they soften, and add the shrimp and cook until they develop a bit of color, about a minute. Add the bok choy leaves and cook until they begin to wilt. Add soy sauce and give everything a turn, before covering everything in the broth. Bring to a simmer, add scallions and rice noodles.

Let everything cook together for three more minutes, and serve.

I tried to enrich my boxed broth by boiling the shrimp shells in it while everything else was going on, hoping to add a little more depth to it. I think it worked, but I can't really promise that it wasn't just suggestion, or the stronger flavor from the shrimp themselves. The noodles are probably the weakest link here, since they're prone to go soggy: I might keep them out of the soup altogether and just add them to bowls. Cilantro would probably also have been good in here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Prawns in Chili Sauce

Recipe courtesy of No Recipes. But they're just the conduit this time. Pardon this divergence:

We didn't have cable in my house growing up. For the most part, I never felt too deprived: I would have liked to catch a few more football games on ESPN, but it was a minor thing. Except for the Food Network. And whatever mess is currently on Food TV. These were the 90s. Mario Batali put out the kind of real Italian food that it turns out the viewing public hated making. Emeril Lagasse's catchphrases may have been harbingers for the chicanery to come, but at the time they were truly novel, and Emeril always had the chops.

But they were sideshows. The Food Network of the 90s is what gave us Iron Chef. The original, Japanese Iron Chef. Where you could never quite tell how much anyone was winking at the camera, or taking their challenges with the gravity suggested by the music and production effects. It was awesome. And the king of the Iron Chefs was Chen Kenichi, the Chinese chef who rose to the top of the Japanese culinary scene. These are his shrimp.

Or his father's properly: Chen Kenmin taught the dish to his son. Prawns in Chili Sauce—ebi chili—showed up at least in every third episode Chen fils was challenged. They looked amazing. I'll accept that these are a pale imitation, but they are tasty.

Side note: Potato starch makes things super crispy? I'll have to try some more.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

St. Patrick's Day sneaked up on me this year. And zipped right by. I usually try to keep a low profile that weekend, since my neighborhood tends to be filled with drunk undergrads wearing green and declaring that this makes them as Irish as Frank McCourt. It gets obnoxious very quickly, as you can probably imagine. At least it's better than when I worked in Midtown and had to put up with them tromping down Fifth Avenue while I was trying to run some errands midday on a Wednesday.

Our escape plan this year was to head up to Trader Joe's, which is in a bit of a dead spot for bars and sells relatively little alcohol. Their sample was, appropriately, corned beef and cabbage, which reminded me that I forgot my favorite part of the holiday. So I decided to make a soup out of it, though it took a few weeks before it really came together. Without really the appetite for a whole brisket, I used deli corned beef. Nothing complex:

1/2 lb. corned beef, sliced thick from the deli and chopped roughly.
2 cups cabbage, chopped.
1 carrot, diced.
2 potatoes, cubed.
2 onions, chopped.
32 oz. chicken broth
Olive oil

Heat oil in the bottom of a stockpot, adding onions and carrots. When they soften, add the corned beef and let brown just a little. Add potatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Cabbage tops it off, and stir for just a moment before adding the broth.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. The soup is ready when the potatoes are soft, which should be about half an hour. Season with salt and pepper—I think this takes well to being pretty salty.