Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Egg Drop Soup


Egg Drop Soup
We had planned to have guests over for dinner on Monday night, but Ann texted early morning saying she wasn't feeling well and had cancelled dinner. And then she texted to ask if I would make some soup even though we had just made soup the week before. She knows that I don't like to repeat the same things.

I decided this time rather than going the Vietnamese route, to do more of a classic Chinese soup. And then when I got home, I mentioned that I might poach an egg right in the soup so that we could break open a nice runny egg into the soup. But she asked me to make her stracciatella, the Italian version of egg drop soup.

And so I put on a big pot of water with a couple pounds of chicken necks, half a pound of ginger, some garlic, some green onion bulbs, some cilantro stems, and some celery leaves. After this cooked very slowly for about 90 minutes, I put in a whole chicken and let it poach until it was done, another couple of hours. I fished the chicken out and let it cool while I strained the broth.

From here, just a small matter of some vegetable prep: thinly sliced snow peas, straw mushrooms, bamboo shoots, pickled mustard stems, sliced green onions, and tiny baby bok choy.


Garnishes (except the chicken) Ready for Soup Bowls
Once the garnishes were prepped, I put them straight into our soup bowls and then beat a couple of eggs while the stock came back to a wicked boil. Into the stock went the eggs. And then I ladled the boiling stock into our soup bowls.

Soup Bowl Ready for Broth
I love soup. So really, no real hardship to make it two weeks running.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

Tough weekend. I couldn't eat all day Sunday for a minor medical procedure on Monday and after getting out of that, I needed something really comforting to eat. Enter phở gà.

Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
When I make pho, it is typically the more common beef version, but when I am not 100%, chicken suits me (and most of us) better. It was Ann's idea that I make chicken noodle soup: good call!

Here are my tips for making phở gà:

1. Poach the chicken until it is done, remove it from the broth, pick the meat from the bones, and return the bones to the stock to keep enriching it. This way, you achieve both goals: rich broth and tender chicken. Leaving the chicken meat in too long just renders it tough.

2. Char the onion and ginger on the flame for a few minutes before adding to the stock. It adds great depth of flavor.

3. Sweetness is optional. I almost never add sugar to chicken pho. But I often add just a touch of Chinese sausage (lop cheung) to the broth at the last minute. It imparts a certain sweetness. This is certainly non-traditional, but it's my bowl of soup, damn it, and I will cook it the way I want.

4. Have a light hand with the seasonings. To a half gallon of stock, I added four star anise and half a stick of cinnamon for just 20 minutes so that the flavor was there, but really in the background. You want the delicate chicken flavor to come through.

5. Knock yourself out on garnishes. I love pickled mustards stems from China, so I garnish my soup with them, but not with so many that I mask the delicate chicken broth.

6. I don't add either hoisin or sriracha to my bowl with chicken as I would with beef. Again, I want the chicken to be front and center.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pork Larb Lettuce Wraps

I didn't have a clue what to make for dinner last evening. I wasn't hungry and I wasn't really craving anything. So when Ann sent me an email in the morning asking if we could have pork lettuce wraps for dinner, I was totally jazzed at not having to think about dinner. The figuring out dinner part is the hard part; the execution is always the easy part.

Pork Larb Lettuce Wraps
Last week, I made shrimp larb for dinner and I thought I would reprise that with pork this week. While Ann was off at a meeting, I went out to the garden and picked Thai basil and mint, whose leaves I mixed with cilantro leaves and very thinly sliced red onion in a bowl. And then I sliced some shallots, some Thai chiles, and minced some garlic. The final step in getting set was to mix some lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, and Thai chiles to make a sauce to drizzle over the wraps.

When Ann texted me to say she was coming home, I browned the shallots hard in a pan, then threw in a bunch of minced garlic and sliced chiles. Next went in the pork, a touch of brown sugar, and a splash each of fish sauce and water. When the pork was cooked through, I removed it carefully to the bowl containing the herbs and red onion, and returned the liquid to the stove where I reduced it to a syrup and then poured it back over the pork.

I omitted the toasted rice powder: we're watching our carbs. We hate watching our carbs but it is working. I could kill for a bowl of pasta now after three months of low-carbing it!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Focaccia

I learned about fougasse in the south of France long before I had heard of focaccia, which seems to be nearly ubiquitous here in the US now. I've also heard it called both fouace and fouée as well in France. In Liguria which sits directly between the south of France and Italy proper, I know people who call it fugàssa (and some who pronounce it minus the final vowel as in fougasse) and over the Pyrenees, it is called mainly hogaza but also fogassa in some regions. But it all stems from the Latin panis focacius, literally hearth bread. By any name, it is a simple and delicious bread and I set about making some this weekend.

Baked Focaccia Topped with Pesto and Tomatoes

Dough on Final Rise

Ready for the Oven, Topped with Olive Oil and Truffle Salt

Monday, August 4, 2014

Delaplane Cellars

It's been many months since we have been out. Our finances have not permitted us any discretionary funds this year. While still not great, things are easing up a little, and we decided to reward ourselves with a lunch at Delaplane. As we drove up the driveway, we could see a few grapes here and there starting to turn color: last time we were here, the vines hadn't even bloomed.

Beautiful View Looking South from Tasting Room

Left Bank 2012 Does not Suck

Cheese and Bread: a Great Lunch!
After lunch, Jim and Betsy came down from the house and joined us and we sat and chewed the fat until closing time. Jim may or may not have opened a couple bottles of Williams Gap 2012 during that time. ;) It may or may not have been good to taste that wine in advance of our Thursday night dinner at the restaurant featuring the wines of Delaplane.

Keeping it Local

It hit me when I woke up two Sunday mornings ago in Auburn AL. Or rather it felt like several people and a baseball bat hit me. I wasn't...