Thursday, January 30, 2014

Recipe: Thai-inspired Coconut Curry Soup

The soup at the end of the story.
Tuesday, I hopped on a plane with seven co-workers, heading to Birmingham, AL for a conference. As we began our descent into Bham, the pilot announced that the airport was closed due to ice and snow. We would be able to land as soon as they cleared the runways.

We were diverted to Nashville, where we spent the day waiting for updates about those runways. As we sat in the airport, much of the South was plunged into a state of emergency, with people abandoning their cars on the side of the road, kids sheltering at school overnight, and people sleeping in Publix. Houston's strategy under even a threat of ice is to close the schools and a lot of businesses pre-emptively, People make fun of us for it, but as a Northerner who now lives in Texas, even a wee bit of ice is no joke in the South. There are no plows, no sand trucks, no studded tires. It's best to keep as many people off the roads as possible. The fact that some cities didn't is partly why there was such a problem on Tuesday.
Here we are - we made it home!
(That's me, second from right)

We were pretty lucky in that we were safe and warm in the airport, and by evening our flight was finally canceled. Nashville was chilly but there was no severe ice or snow, and the airline gave us a discount on a hotel. With Birmingham airport remaining closed, we turned around and headed home.

What does this have to do with food? you might ask.
I'm like Ponyo when I see a bowl of noodles.

Well, two days in an airport leaves one feeling kind of funky. On the way home, I began thinking about what I could cook up that would be warm, comforting, and healthful. Of course, I landed on the idea of chicken soup... but not just any chicken soup. Since making chicken pho from Smitten Kitchen last week, I'm sort of obsessed with warm, slurpy bowls of noodly goodness (well, truth be told, I'm always kind of obsessed with this, as any fan of Miyazaki should be).

I learned some new techniques from the chicken pho - namely, how to make a good chicken broth - so I decided to use those to make tom ka gai, which is a Thai version of chicken soup. On the way home, from the airport I stopped at the store for ingredients, and by that evening I was slurping away.

Tom Ka Gai (Coconut Curry Soup)

For the broth:

3 1" x 1/2" pieces of ginger, peeled
2 Thai chilies, halved and seeded
1 lime, quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4-6 bone in, skin on chicken thighs or drumsticks

Add all ingredients to a soup pot and add 6 cups of water, or just enough to cover. Bring to a boil, and lower heat to simmer. Simmer 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot. 

Remove the chicken meat from the bone and set aside. Return the bones and skin to the pot and continue simmering for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the broth from heat, and strain, discarding all the solids.

While the broth is simmering, prep:

1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 package of dried wild mushrooms. Pour boiling water over them to cover and let sit for 20 minutes, then slice thin (you could also use sliced fresh mushrooms)
1 package of thick rice noodles (pad thai noodles or rice sticks) - prepare according package directions

To finish the soup:

Return the broth to heat, and whisk in:

2 cans of coconut milk or lite coconut milk
3 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp fish sauce (if you can't find fish sauce, add a tsp. of salt)
a squeeze of Sriracha (Thai hot sauce - optional)
1 tbsp. brown sugar
the juice of 1-2 limes
pinch of black pepper

Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the chicken, red pepper, mushrooms, and shallots and continue to simmer until the chicken and veg are heated through.

To serve:

Put some of the noodles in a deep bowl, and ladle the soup over them. To garnish, add chopped cilantro, basil, scallions, and a wedge or two of lime.

If you have left overs, refrigerate the noodles and the soup separately so the noodles don't break down in the liquid. The coconut milk may separate somewhat in the fridge, but just heat it up and give it a stir!

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