Daily Archives: April 14, 2011

Chicken Coconut Soup

Chicken Coconut Soup

It’s warm in NYC today, but the boyfriend and I are a bit under the weather.  So we need a soup that’s light but also complex in flavor and filling to our Day-4-cold bodies, and I need something that’s extremely easy to make.  Enter Chicken Coconut Soup.  The boyfriend doesn’t eat much meat (sniff), so he often requests chicken when asked what I should make for dinner.  Conveniently I had some boneless thighs in the fridge and a can of coconut milk and coconut cream as well as a bunch of leftover lemons.  A container of mushrooms, some green onions and some fresh basil – voila!  This is an extremely affordable soup that – when served over rice – can comfortably feed four hungry bellies.  Weakened condition optional.

Since I have a bit of baking to do and know my energy waxes and wanes on its own schedule when I’m sick, I’m preparing the soup early, then I’ll let it sit in the fridge and the flavors meld.  Tonight I’ll cook up some jasmine rice, bring the soup up to temp and we’ll be good to go.

I decided to poach the chicken as my new best friend Jacques Pépin learned from his buddy Danny Kaye (who I love, sigh).  I also added oyster mushrooms to this recipe out of inspiration from Jacques.  If you want to learn tricks of the trade, read chef memoirs.  And they’re just so much fun!

Ingredients:

  • About 1 – 1 1/2 pound chicken.  I used boneless thighs to give the soup a bit more fat and flavor, but breasts work as well.
  • 2 whole lemons
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 3/4 can coconut cream (NOT cream of coconut).  If you can’t find this, just use 3 cans of coconut milk in lieu of as much water.
  • 1 bunch of green onions, tough greens removed, chopped.
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • About 3 oz mushrooms (optional).  I used oyster mushrooms, but any delicate mushroom will do.

Directions:

  • Spread chicken in a (preferably cast-iron) soup or stock pot.  Add coconut milk and enough water to cover chicken by 1/2 inch.  If you’re not using coconut cream as well, use 2 more cans coconut milk and add water to top.
  • Add salt, peppercorns and 1/2 of the chopped green onions.
  • Turn on heat and start to bring liquid up to a boil.
  • While the pot heats up, juice one lemon and add to the broth.  Take the other lemon and slice into 1/2 inch rounds, then dice.  Add to soup in entirety.
  • When the liquid is at a strong boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  This should poach the chicken to a perfect level.
  • After fifteen minutes, remove chicken and check to see that it’s done.  If not, return to pot.  If so, remove all chicken and allow to cool.
  • Meanwhile, whisk in enough coconut cream to thicken the broth a bit and enhance the flavor.  I added about 1/4 cup at a time, and my perfect level was 3/4 of the can.
  • Add almost the rest of the green onions.
  • Chop 3/4 of the mushrooms and add.
  • Reserve remaining green onions, mushrooms and lemon rind.
  • When the chicken is lukewarm, shred it with your hands along the “grain” of the meat (much easier than cutting, promise) and return to pot.  Bring back up to a simmer and serve immediately or cover and put in fridge until ready to eat.
  • Garnish with remaining green onions, mushrooms and lemon rind.

Serving suggestion: try it over some rice noodles or jasmine rice.  Adding a bit of crushed red pepper would also be delightful.

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Oyster Mushrooms!

My new love - Oyster Mushrooms

I fully blame (thank) Jacques Pépin for my new intrigue (obsession) with mushroom. I’m about to finish up his memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen.  I won’t begin to go into all the things I love about Pépin and highly recommend the book.

But throughout it’s meaty pages he often talks about foraging for mushrooms, first with his father throughout France as his family relocated to open restaurants, and then when he bought a house with his wife near chef friends in upstate NY.  While there are many culinary explorations I’m dying to try (owning chickens!!!), I’ll leave the foraging for experts – though I’ll jump on tagging along any chance I get.

I grew up not eating mushrooms; I have an arthritic condition as a result of years of Lyme Disease, so anything that’s moldy has been off the table since I was young (aged cheeses, peanuts, potato and carrot skins etc.).  But recently I’ve been nagged by this absence, and have slowly been tossing mushrooms into food with wild, happy abandon.

So today in Fairway I noticed these gorgeous little gems at about $3.80 for 3.3 ounces and, oops, they fell into my basket!  It wasn’t until I got home that I fell completely in love.

The mushrooms on their "shell"

The little things came on their stem, very much like a shell, and were so delicate and dainty that I almost dared not to touch them!  But then, of course, I did, to pop one raw into my mouth.

They are so delightful!  Delicate, subtle.  The texture is gentle – they’re not at all chewy or rough, but rather silky and smooth.  Their taste has an almost floral hint, though many have written that they taste like the sea mollusk of which they’re named.

Pretty much all the sites I looked at said to sauté them with butter before adding them to soup, but I didn’t want any butter in the Chicken Coconut Soup recipe I was building, so I simply chopped them up and threw them in (saving a few to top the soup with raw).  They absorbed the flavors of the soup perfectly and didn’t lose their tiny shapes.

Oh, happy day!  Thanks, Jacques!

The little darlings!

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