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Posts Tagged ‘chicken soup’

Another year means another Passover Seder. Well, that’s not entirely true. Since Yuki is about 2 weeks from her due date we decided that it’s not a good idea to spend the holiday with my family. Being 3 hours from our OB/GYN at this point isn’t the best thing we could do (or at least that’s what we tell my family!). What makes it easier is the fact that I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination. So, if I missed another recital of the 4 questions or the 4 sons or Elijah I wouldn’t lose any sleep. I do, however, love a good matzo ball soup and brisket. I decided that I would make a few of the traditional Passover delicacies for the first night. My younger bro also lives in Chicago and did not go to the Quad Cities, so he came over for dinner last night.

To keep with tradition, I started the dinner off with some matzo ball soup. You can ask Alpana Singh my thoughts on the perfect matzo ball. I made my typical chicken soup on Sunday and then put it in the fridge overnight. In the afternoon I took it out and let it come to room temperature. About 20 minutes before my brother got here I made the matzo balls.

I used 2 eggs, about 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup of matzo meal, a few cracks of white pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

In a small glass dish I mixed together all of the dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl I beat the eggs with the olive oil and parsley. Then, I poured the egg mixture into the dry mix until it was evenly mixed. I covered it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

With the soup boiling I took the mix out of the fridge, wet my hands, and dropped walnut-sized balls into the soup. I let them boil for about 20 minutes to make sure they cooked through. That’s all there is to it, soup is ready. I will say that these were by far the best matzo balls I’ve ever made, and some of the best I’ve ever eaten as well.

While the rest of dinner was heating up I brought out some charoset and matzo. Side note, everything we ate was prepared ahead of time so that all I had to do was re-heat for dinner.

For the charoset I used 1 gala apple, 1/3 cup of walnuts, 1 tablespoon of red wine, 2 tablespoons of honey, and a few dashes of cinnamon which didn’t make it into the pic. In a bowl I crushed the walnuts into small chunks then poured the wine and honey in. Then I grated the apple into the bowl, seasoned with the cinnamon, mixed it up real well, covered with plastic, and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the entrée I made a horseradish brisket (the recipe was adapted from a Gail Simmons recipe), wilted spinach with raisins and toasted soy nuts, olive oil mashed potatoes, and roasted radishes.

I made the brisket in the morning to make sure it got enough time in the braising liquid. I used 2 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of prepared horseradish, 3 carrots chopped, 3 celery stalks chopped, 7 garlic cloves minced, 1 small onion sliced, and a 3.5 pound brisket.

In a large heated skillet I poured in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and browned the brisket. I gave each side about 7 minutes.

Then I transferred the brisket to a foil braising pan and scattered the carrots and celery around it. In the hot skillet I added half of the garlic and the onions and let them sweat down for about 6 minutes. Then I poured in the wine. I let the wine boil down for about 7 minutes and added the beef stock. When the liquid came back to a boil I poured everything around the brisket.

I mixed together the rest of the garlic with the horseradish and spread that on top of the brisket. I covered it tightly with foil and put it into a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours. The one thing I did forget was bay leaves. I would have liked 2 of them in there. Oh well, still tasted great.

After 3 hours I let it sit for the rest of the day. While we were eating the soup I removed the foil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and put it under the broiler for about 30 minutes or so to not only re-heat, but also to give the horseradish a nice crust. To serve I just lay a couple sliced on top of the onion, carrots, and celery.

For the spinach I used 1/4 cup of raisins, the zest and juice from 1 lemon, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1/2 onion diced, 1/4 cup of toasted soy nuts (this dish would typically use pine nuts, but at $24 a pound I found the soy nuts price of $3 a pound a little easier to digest), 1/4 cup of red wine, and 2 bunches of spinach chopped.

First I poured the wine into a bowl and soaked the raisins for at least 15 minutes. Then, I heated up a large pot and poured in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat down the garlic and onion for about 5 minutes. Handful by handful I added the spinach until it was all wilted down. I poured in the wine and raisins. Once the wine had boiled down for a few minutes I added the lemon juice and zest. I stirred that all in and then added the soy nuts. A touch of salt and pepper and the spinach was ready to go.

I skinned 5 yukon gold potatoes for the mashed potatoes. Since the laws of the Kashrut don’t allow dairy to be eaten alongside meat I decided to use olive oil in order to try to make them creamy. I know, I don’t believe any of that crap, but since I was making a pretty traditional meal I thought I’d keep with tradition (all kosher wine as well). After boiling the potatoes I mashed them with about 1/4 cup or so of olive oil. Actually, I probably used more, I just kept adding it until the potatoes were the right consistancy. A little salt and pepper and they were all set.

For the radishes I simply halved them and roasted them with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I did not have enough time to make any dessert last night. We were pretty full anyway, but a little dessert is always a nice thing. I guess life could be worse than not having dry, matzo meal cakes sit in your stomach on top of brisket. Plus, you’re all probably tired of this post by now anyway. Happy holidays!

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With the weather getting really cold here in Chicago already, my mind starts to go towards stews, braises, and soups. Being Jewish, a good chicken soup with matza balls is always a winner (at least the way I make it), but I wanted to do something different. Since my mom lives in Mexico I thought I’d make a Mexican-Jewish soup. I made a relatively classic chicken pozole verde but dropped some matza balls in the soup instead of tortilla chips. 

Most of the recipes I found online used a combination of store-bought chicken broth and water with chicken breasts. Making a simple chicken broth is really easy so I opted to use plain water and chicken thighs. Dark meat has much more flavor than white meat and I never use breasts when making a soup. What I did was bring 10 cups of water to a boil and then put 2 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken thighs in. Once it came back up to a boil I turned the heat down to medium and let it simmer for about an hour. Every 10 minutes or so I skimmed the surface to remove the muck and some of the excess fat. Once I had gotten all of the chicken flavor into the broth I removed the chicken, took off the skin and bones, and shredded the meat. I set the meat aside while I prepared the verde part of the soup.

The verde part is really just a simple salsa verde, much like you’d be served at a taqueria with chips. I used 1 pound of tomatillos, 2 poblanos, 2 jalapenos, 5 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of cilantro, 1 small onion, and 1 tablespoon of dried oregano. I gave everything a rough chop and tossed it into my processor. I processed it into a smooth salsa and added a ladle of the broth to make sure everything mixed nicely.

I heated up a soup pan and poured in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and then added the verde. As you can see from this picture it started off a nice bright green. About 10-15 minutes later with occasional stirring…

…you can see it took on a much more drab color. That’s what you want in order to get rid of the raw flavors of the garlic and jalapeno and whatnot. Then I poured it into the broth and made the matza balls.

The last time I made matza balls my mom called me out for using matza ball mix. So, this time I did it from scratch. Honestly, there really isn’t much difference. I used 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 cup of matza meal, 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and some cracked black pepper to taste. I mixed everything thoroughly in a glass bowl, added about 4 tablespoons of cold water and mixed that in, then covered the bowl and threw it in the fridge for about 45 minutes.

Then I got the accoutrements ready for the soup. I got out the shredded chicken, 3 radishes thinly sliced, 1 avocado, a 28 ounce can of hominy drained and rinsed, and a large handful of watercress chopped. I added the chicken and hominy to the soup and slowly brought it back up to a low boil while the rest of the ingredients stood aside and waited their turn.

When the soup was at a low boil I got the matza ball mix out and turned it into matza balls. With moist hands I rolled out balls about the size of silver dollars and dropped them in the soup. A lot of people cook theirs in plain boiling water and then add them to the soup. I’ll never understand why as that prevents them from absorbing the broth’s flavor. I want tasty balls! Once my balls were all swimming in the soup I covered it up and let them cook for about 30 minutes.

For a side I just made a simple tomato and watercress salad. I quartered a bunch of cherry tomatoes, laid them on a bed of watercress, and drizzled some sesame dressing on top.

To garnish the soup I added the sliced radish, the watercress, I diced the avocado, and squeezed some lime juice in.

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After Tuesday night’s overly complex debacle of a meal we wanted something clean and simple for dinner last night. Yuki had requested my matzo ball soup, so that’s what I gave her. (feel free to insert any number of jokes)

The ingredients I use for my chicken soup are 1 diced onion, 3 medium carrots chopped, 3 stalks of celery chopped, 5 garlic cloves peeled but left whole, and 1.5 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken thighs.

There are two basic ways to make chicken soup. One is to throw all of the ingredients into a stockpot, cover it with cold water, and bring it all to a slow simmer for a couple of hours, usually with a whole bird instead of just thighs (I think white meat in chicken soup is a waste as it doesn’t have nearly as much flavor as dark meat). That’s they way my dad makes it and his soup tastes pretty good. I do it a little different.

I heat up my stock pot and pour in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Then I dump in the onion, carrots, and celery and let them sweat for about 5 minutes. I don’t want them too translucent, I just want the sweetness drawn out a little. After the veggies are slightly cooked I lay the thighs in skin-side down. A minute or two later I pour in 2 quarts of hot water, add the garlic, a bay leaf, and a couple pinches of salt.

After it’s been at a low boil for a few minutes a foamy grit will surface. I take a large spoon and skim that off. I do that 6 or 7 times. This gives the broth some clarity. The muck isn’t bad for you, it’s just bitter and unnecessary. Skimming broth is the key to a clean soup. Once the foam stops surfacing I turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let it slowly simmer for about 2 hours.

Once the soup has cooled a little I take out the chicken, skin it, and shred the meat. At this point the chicken should be relatively flavorless as hopefully all of the taste is in the broth. I like to put the chicken back in for the substance.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the Matzo Ball Mix for your mazto balls. While it isn’t that difficult to do it from scratch, the mix ensures the perfect texture every time. You just need one packet of mix, two eggs, and two teaspoons of oil. I also add a tablespoon of dried oregano for a little more flavor.

Mix everything in a bowl and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes to harden up a tad. While it’s in the fridge bring the soup to a light boil again. The package says to boil them separately in water, but matza balls should absorb some of the broth flavors.

Keeping your fingers wet, the mix is sticky, form balls about the size of a quarter and drop them into the boiling soup. There’s absolutely no need to make them any bigger. They do expand as they cook and if you make them too big the soup flavor won’t penetrate all the way through. I’ve never understood why some people make their balls so damn big. Maybe to compensate I guess. At any rate, that’s it. Let the balls cook for about 15 minutes and the soup is ready.

I made my wonton crisps while the soup was simmering. I used 1 package of shiitake small diced, 5 eggroll wraps cut in half diagonally, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 6 green onions sliced, and some fresh shiso leaves (the same ones our friends gave us, they are pretty damn delicious!).

I heated some oil to 375 degrees in my little Cuisinart deep fryer and fried up the skins. I let them drain on paper towels while I prepared the mushrooms.

In a heated pot I poured in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and added the garlic. I let the garlic go for about 45 seconds and then I threw in the shiitake and green onions. I sort of stir-fried them for about 5 minutes and then poured in 1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce and a pinch of black pepper. I let the soy sauce absorb into the shiitake for about 3 minutes and then turned of the heat.

To serve, I laid the crisps down on a plate. On top of them I placed one shiso leaf. Then I spooned some shiitake mixture on top of that. That’s all she wrote, a great Jewish-Japanese dinner.

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Friday night we went out to Sun Wah B.B.Q. with a bunch of Yuki’s co-workers. We had a big group of 12 adults (I still have trouble thinking of myself as an adult) including spouses and then there were 3 babies. For Chinese food, I think it’s best to go with a big crowd so you can order a variety of food.

The first thing I noticed about Sun Wah was that they had duck hanging in the window. You don’t see that often in Chicago which is a shame. Any restaurant that serves Peking Duck (Sun Wah is considered the best Peking Duck in Chicago, from what I’ve eaten here, I would have to agree) needs to display it in the window to dry the skin and show the customers what’s in store.

They have a huge dining room. I guess that’s a good thing because as the night went on they got packed! I think the wait was about 30-45 minutes when we left. Good thing we got there relatively early, although, we did have a reservation. Service was pretty typical of a Chinese restaurant. Not refined, but not sloppy. As for the food…

…the first thing that rolled out was the Peking Duck. Since we had two big round tables we ordered two of each dish so that we didn’t have to pass things from one table to the other.

Classic tableside duck carving. Slice off that crispy skin first and then chop up the meat. Really good duck. If you’re a fan of Peking Duck, and the only people I know who aren’t are veggies, you have to try Sun Wah’s. I wouldn’t say it’s really anything special, but it is the best in town, very good duck.

Lobster with ginger and scallions, what more do you need? My only gripe with this dish, and it’s not unique to Sun Wah, is that the lobster was all hacked up and very hard to get the meat from the shell. Why do Chinese restaurants hack up lobster like this? Surely there has to be a better way to stir-fry all of that flavor into the meat and keep it easy to eat.

Peking Pork Ribs. Thin slices of rib meat cooked in a thickened sweet sauce. There were slices of carrot, green pepper, and yellow pepper in it as well. If you like sweet Chinese ribs, this is the dish for you!

Stir-fried water spinach. We wanted green beans, but they didn’t have any. No worries, water spinach has a nice subtle bitterness to it. It’s also extremely healthy. A good vegetable to help cut through all of the animal fat we were mauling down.

Fried rice with BBQ pork, shrimp, scallions, carrots, and scrambled eggs. Another classic, but one you must have with a Chinese feast.

Shanton soup with chunks of pork. It’s the pork bone that gives this soup its flavor. This is to the Chinese kitchen what chicken soup is to the Jewish kitchen.

Fried noodles. For this dish they used the duck breast from the Peking duck (for Peking you only eat the skin and some of the dark meat), pea pods, baby corn, carrots, mushrooms, and onions. Personally, I would have used shiitake instead of white button mushrooms, but hey, it’s not my restaurant. Still a tasty dish.

Our last dish was silken tofu steamed with shrimp. It was topped with cilantro and swimming in a soy and broth soup. It was really good.

Overall, I have to say, Sun Wah B.B.Q. is quite possibly the best Chinese food in Chicago. While I am a true believer that Chicago does not have the best Chinese food in the world, this place is definitely worth passing through your entrails. Every dish was fresh and well prepared. Nothing was over the top, but everything was extremely solid. The best part was that all of that food, along with Tsing Dao and tip, only came to $25 per person. Well worth the weakened US Dollar.

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The other night I tried my hand at making a classic home-cooking dish from Japan, Nikujaga. It is a stewed meat and potato dish that is the definition of Japanese comfort food. There are about as many different ways to make it as there are Japanese mothers (and Jewish husbands who cook for their Japanese wives).

The basics of Nikujaga are thin slices of beef (can use pork for variation), potatoes, and onions that are simmered in a sweetened soy broth. Frequently there are other veggies added such as carrots and peas or green beans. It’s really very easy to make as well as being healthy and delicious. It’s the perfect meal for a winter’s eve when served with white rice.

I made it using about 2 cups of water, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of mirin, and a couple tablespoons of sugar as the broth. I threw that all into my pot with about a pound of large chopped Yukon Gold potatoes. I brought that to a boil and let the potatoes soften for about 20 minutes. It’s best to put all of that in the pot with the potatoes cold and bring to a boil together so that the potatoes absorb more of the flavor.

Once the potatoes were partially cooked I added about 2/3’s of a pound of thinly sliced beef. After that boils for a few minutes I skimmed off the foam that forms from boiling raw meat, much like I do when making chicken soup. The foam isn’t bad for you or anything, but by skimming it off you get a clear broth.

After the meat simmered for about 5 minutes or so I added a thinly sliced onion along with a sliced carrot. I simmered those for about 10 minutes. I just wanted them softened, not fully cooked, so that there was still some texture left in them.

Then I threw in a bunch of shelled edamame. Those don’t need to cook since they’re small and already cooked when you buy them. They just need to be heated through so they go in towards the end. After they’re cooked through I thought I was finished and proceeded to serve up the meal.

However, I forgot the last ingredient that I wanted to put in, shirataki. These are clearish-white “noodles” that are made from the starch of a yam-like vegetable. It’s the same substance as konnyaku, but in noodle form. They don’t need to be cooked, just heated through. They come in a package in liquid. Drain the liquid, rinse them off, cut them into smaller pieces, and throw them in to the stew for a few minutes. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic with the shirataki in the Nikujaga. Just imagine some opaque noodles in the stew and you’ll get the idea.

If you follow my recipe you’ll end up with about 4 servings. The only suggestion I would make, and it’s something that I’ll do the next time I make it, is to use Russets instead of Yukon Gold. Russets will stand up to the long stewing a little better as their a little more dense.

After Yuki ate the Nikujaga she gave me probably the best compliment I could have received. She said that her mother would definitely enjoy eating it. Knowing her mom and what a great home cook she is, that’s pretty high praise. I am now officially a Japanese mother! I may be the only Japanese mother in the world who is actually a Jewish husband without any children. That’s all part of my charm.

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