Posts tagged ‘Soup’

Elephant Walk Cooking Class

All cooks find themselves in a rut from time to time. In those periods, the same dishes keep appearing on the dinner table week after week – in my case, momofuku noodles (post coming soon), pasta with meat sauce, and sauteed chicken breasts with rice. One solution to this would be to open up one of my million cookbooks and find myself a recipe, clearly.  A slightly more expensive — and certainly more entertaining — fix is to find a cooking class!  Even better, find a cooking class for a cuisine with which you are unfamiliar.  This will ensure both education and several new avenues for experimentation to keep you out of that rut for a long while!

Last weekend, my mother and I attended a cooking class at a local Cambodian restaurant, The Elephant Walk.  Their courses (and food!) were recommended to us by a close friend, and how right he was.  We had a fantastic time visiting a Cambodian market and then returning to the Elephant Walk kitchen to cook up a three-course lunch, which we promptly devoured with delicious wine to accompany.

We chose the class called “Doing It All on Market Day”.  This cost a little more, but was worth every penny.  We arrived at 8:30 at the restaurant and traveled from there to Revere, one of the three largest Cambodian communities in the United States (the other two are Lowell, MA and Long Beach, CA).  A little store market there carried produce and non-perishables from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Latin America.  As Longteine de
Monteiro, Elephant Walk’s head chef, explained, as property values in neighborhoods near Boston have risen, Hispanics have moved in to places the Cambodians can no longer afford.  Thus, the market showcased Thai basil next to cilantro, tamarind alongside tomatillos, and lemongrass sidled up to habaneros.  I wish I had taken more pictures of the various exotic vegetables, like banana blossoms, khmer eggplant, and string beans that measured two feet long!  Here is Longteine showing us a fuzzy melon (which is like a spongy squash):

Notice the cactus in the bottom right!  Another “melon” to which we were introduced was called bitter melon – although this one was more like a cucumber:

With each new vegetable, she explained to us how they would be used.  Most to all of them can go into sour soup, if you’re wondering.  If you want more than my memory can provide, fear not! There’s The Elephant Walk Cookbook too.

Once we collected everything we’d need for our class (plus Mom and I picked up bean sprouts, mushroom soy sauce, and tamarind paste to make some Pad Thai later), we headed back to the restaurant.  The 10 or so participants picked partners, and each pair was assigned a course.  Mom and I chose the Spicy Beef with Peppers and camped out at a station in the kitchen. Everything was very clean and organized, and our mise had already been put en place:

Much of the above you’ll recognize: salt, sugar, fish sauce, jalapenos and cubanelle peppers.  The odd ginger-like thing at the top is called galangal or a rhizome.  It is similar in look, texture and use-value to ginger, but tastes more peppery than gingery.  At the top left, you can see the base of a container full of the most incredible ambrosia… lemongrass paste, they call it.  To make it, blend the following ingredients together for 2-3 minutes until smooth:

2 Tblsp. thinly sliced lemongrass
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons peeled, coarsely chopped galangal
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 cup water

We spent about 35 minutes cooking, and then shared our dishes – green mango salad, sour soup with tilapia, and spicy stir-fried beef at a long table set for an elegant party.  I highly recommend the experience — very good food and definitely a departure from my norm.  The restaurant also offers courses in French-Asian fusion, Vegan & Vegetarian Cooking, and Pan Sauces, just to name a few.  The instruction wasn’t very comprehensive in terms of technique, especially given that in some cases the lemongrass paste was already made and the peppers already chopped, but we had a pretty well-trained group.  For me, the class was more about thinking through new flavor combinations and using ingredients I’ve never seen before.  Consider that rut a thing of the past!

I also enjoyed seeing the class through the lens of a world history teacher.  Since my last post, I have finished a master’s program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and have spent two years teaching and living at a boarding school.  No wonder I don’t have time for blogging!  But throughout my cooking class last Saturday, I couldn’t stop thinking about how none of our dishes would have been possible without the Columbian Exchange, the term used to describe the integration of crops and people from the Americas and the rest of the world.  For most of recorded history, these two hemispheres were separated by unnavigable waters.  They thus developed quite different species of flora and fauna.  In the Americas, people grew potatoes, peppers, corn, tomatoes, and pineapple – none of which had been seen before 1492 by farmers in Europe, Africa, or Asia.  Men from those continents brought wheat, rice, onions, most spices, and sugar — not to mention cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep — across the Atlantic to revolutionize agriculture in the Americas.  See how many Old World/New World interactions you can find in the below recipes!

Nyuom Svay (Green Mango Salad), serves 4

4 medium green mangoes, finely julienned
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
8 oz. cooked pork belly or pork butt, very thinly julienned
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut, roasted
1/2 cup julienned red bell pepper
1 Tblsp. salt
1 Tblsp. fish sauce
3 Tblsp. sugar
1 to 2 Tblsp. fresh lime juice to taste

In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients together. Garnish with fresh mint or basil.  [The recipe book we were given suggests you need 1 cup loosely packed mint, and the same amount of Thai basil.  But if you see the photos, I don’t see anywhere near that much shown.  I think that the flecks of brown are the toasted grated coconut.]

Samalh Machou Trey (Sour Soup with Tilapia and Pineapple), serves 4
4 cups chicken broth
3 tilapia filets, cut into 2 1/2 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 Tblsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tblsp. fish sauce
2 Tblsp. fresh lime juice
8 oz. pinapple, julienned 1/2 inch thick
8 oz. fuzzy squash (see photo above), peeled and cut into the same size as pineapple
2 plum tomatoes, quartered (we used green tomatoes)
3 Tblsp. fried chopped garlic
1 cup sliced Maam, aka “French mint” or “Asian cilantro” (see image at right)

Put the chicken broth in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil.  Add the garlic, pineapple, squash, tomatoes, salt, sugar, and fish sauce.  Return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Gently stir in the lime juice and the fish and cook for another 8 minutes.

Add the fried garlic and maam.  Serve immediately with cooked jasmine rice in the individual bowls.

Saiko Cha K’dao (Spicy Stir-fried Beef), serves 4
3/4 lb. cubanelle peppers (about 3 large)
1/4 lb. jalapeno peppers (about 5)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 recipe lemongrass paste (see above)

1 lb. boneless sirloin, cut into strips 2 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick. [she told us we had short rib meat.  Not sure if that is the case]
1 1/2 Tblsp. sugar
1 Tblsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. salt
2 cups loosely packed fresh mareh preuw (aka holy basil) or regular basil leaves (see photo)

Slice the peppers very thinly lengthwise, removing seeds and veins.  Then cut into 2 inch lengths.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass paste and cook until its aroma is released, about 1 minute.

Stirring well as you go, add the beef, peppers, sugar, fish sauce and salt, and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the meat is cooked through.  Remove from the heat and add the herbs.  Serve with rice.

 

Thank you, Nyep, for the great class.  Thank you, Mom, for inviting me to the great class.  Thank you, Eric, for the gift certificates that allowed us to take the great class!

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June 12, 2012 at 9:52 am Leave a comment

Soupe a L’Oignon

fos-final-soup

After I graduated from high school, I deferred my acceptance to college and took a sabbatical year.  What does a budding epicure do with a year of freedom?  Go to Paris, of course!  To be truthful, at that time in my life I had hardly caught the culinary bug.  I went to Paris to become a photographer, and ended up falling in love with art history.  Yet inevitably, the city’s gastronomical powers took hold of me and I was smitten – with macarons, with cassoulet, with steak frites and, most of all, with French Onion Soup.

Perhaps not as glamorous as oysters at Le Dome or duck at Tour d’Argent (which I’ve never done, by the way, but it’s on my list), French onion soup is omnipresent at the adorable corner bistros and thus a reliable friend during the long and rainy Parisian winter.  Not to mention the fact that it is just so darn delicious.  The heady smell of a winey, beefy broth is intertwined with the savory aromas of browning Swiss cheese as you cup your hands around the lions-head porcelain bowl at your favorite neighborhood stop.

My favorite onion soup story comes from my second lengthy stay in Paris, during my Junior year of college.  RJ came to visit me – his first trip abroad – and we found out we shared a love of the soup!  When we looked for places to eat lunch or dinner, I always checked the menu for onion soup since it was one thing I knew would not offend his delicate palate, and no hidden vegetables would appear to ruin his meal!  One evening, we stopped into “Le Christine” – a tiny restaurant in the Latin Quarter.  RJ predictably ordered the Soupe a L’Oignon.  When my first course arrived, RJ was approached by the host.  In his hand was the handle of a large kettle.  Placed before RJ was a plate of handmade croutons and freshly grated gruyere.  The host ladled the soup from the kettle into RJ’s bowl, and RJ garnished his own soup.  It was quite a presentation, and since then RJ has loved Paris, and requests French onion soup as soon as winter sets in.

Soupe a L’Oignon (French Onion Soup), adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 1/2 lbs. or about 5 c. of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
3 Tbs. flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart stock or bouillon
1/2 c. dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste
12 to 16 slices of French bread cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
olive oil or beef drippings
1 cut clove of garlic
3 Tbs. cognac
1 to 2 c. grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese

fsp-white-onionsPreheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  In one pot, keep the stock/broth/bouillon hot.  In another, cook the onions in the butter and oil over medium-low heat, covered, for 15 minutes.  Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

fsp-dark-onionOff heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning. Set aside uncovered until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned. fsp-croutonHalfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil or beef drippings. After baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic.

Preheat the oven’s broiler and move an oven rack to the highest it can go while still fitting your soup bowls.
Reheat soup to a simmer. Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour the soup into an oven-proof tureen or individual soup bowls. fos-gruyereFloat the rounds of toast on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it [I had my first bowl made this way, but found that most of the cheese fell into the soup. My second bowl, I cut thick slices of gruyere and lay them over the toast round, which gave the top of the soup a nice thick cheese topping.] Broil for 3-7 minutes until the cheese is nice and bubbly and beginning to brown around the edges.

December 9, 2008 at 5:27 pm 2 comments

Mexican Chicken (or Turkey) Soup

Tortilla Soup

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I hope that this post finds you well, and FULL!  This Thursday’s Barefoot Bloggers recipe is pretty simple (more so if you have leftover chicken from this recipe) – a twist on a classic.  Start with your average, basic chicken soup with celery, carrots and onions, but add tomatoes and jalapenos for kick.  Those were nice additions, I thought, but the true revelation of the recipe was the tortillas.  Having never made a mexican soup before, I was skeptical about putting strips of corn tortillas into the pot.  Were they meant to act as thick Mexican-style noodles?  What would they taste like in my mouth?  I was imagining the texture of thick, soggy bread strips and I almost gagged.

To my surprise, the effect of adding the corn tortilla strips is to thicken the soup in a most delightful way.  The strips disolve into the broth, giving it a stew-like texture that was unexpected and quite pleasing.  When I brought this soup into the lunchroom the next afternoon, my colleagues ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the smell and the look of it.  And I didn’t even go all out with avocado garnish!  I imagine that if you are left with several pounds of cooked turkey after today, as I inevitably will be, you could easily use it to make this soup.  And while everyone else will be eating their third day of turkey with cranberry sauce, or their twelfth bowl of turkey noodle soup, you will be the envy of the Thanksgiving-leftover-lunchroom.  I would bet that some black beans in this soup would probably make you forget you were even eating leftovers.  Enjoy!

Mexican Chicken Soup, from Barefoot Contessa at Home

2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin onchicken-shred
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c. chopped onions (1 onions)
1/2 c. chopped celery (1 stalks)
1 c. chopped carrots (2 carrots)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 of a 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed*
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seed
2-3 Tbs.chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
3 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chipstortillas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 1/2 tsp. salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1/2 tsp. pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.Chicken soup tortillas

* I halved this recipe, so I only used 1/2 a can of whole tomatoes.  The other half I used for a quick pasta sauce the next night – very easy.  Just make sure you don’t store the unused tomatoes in the can.  I think that it gives them a weird flavor.

November 27, 2008 at 10:00 am 3 comments


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