November 16, 2010

Chicken Soup for the (adaptive) Soul

It's beginning to look a lot like soup weather.  That time of year where I'm guaranteed to make soup so frequently I'll begin to wonder when the last time I didn't eat my meal out of a bowl full of liquid was.

Oh soup, you take so many forms!  Pureed and smooth, chunky with vegetables, thick with cream.  They can be swimming with broth or they could be a rich and hearty stew topped with dumplings.  First course, only course or lunch.  Three cheers for soup!  Every bite is soul-warming and satisfying; the steam warming your face as you lean in, the bowl your personal hand warmer.  I think the chilled evenings are getting to me.

If you took a peek at my rapidly expanding - and let's be honest, completely out of control - list of bookmarked recipes, I'm sure you'd find that almost 1/4 of them are a soup of some form, rivaled only by the list of desserts and sweets.  Obviously, I have my priorities in order.

For no particular reason, other than striking my fancy at just the right time (that right time being when I sat down to make the week's meal plan and corresponding shopping list), I plucked this recipe out of list-oblivion.  A rotisserie cooked chicken and leftover rice soup, studded with bright red Thai chile slices and punched up with cilantro basil and lime.  So simple, so quick, if only a wrench weren't thrown into to the works; the store had sold through their rotisserie birds for the day.  Being stubborn and not wanting to try another store or wait another day, I instead poached some chicken breast I had at home and then used the poaching liquid in place of the chicken stock, supplementing just slightly to make up the volume.  You're no match for me, wrench!  And if I hadn't forgotten to toss in the handful of shrimp, I bet it would have been even better.  But I'm not beating myself up over it.  There's plenty more soup weather ahead, an entire winter's worth of soup making opportunities, to be precise.

Cambodian Chicken and Rice Soup
 Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2008

The original recipe has you use a 3 lb. store-bought rotisserie chicken and already made (or purchased) chicken stock.  However I had frozen chicken breast on hand so I decided to poach that instead and use the poaching liquid, now a light chicken broth, in the place of pre-made stock.  But if you're looking for a quicker weeknight meal, I encourage you to use all premade broth and the rotisserie chicken as was originally intended.  Also there were some shrimp that were supposed to be tossed in towards the end which I left out by accident.  Next time little shrimp, next time.

4 servings

1 pound chicken breast
4 cups water
1 carrot, quartered
1 celery stalk, quartered
1/4 of a small onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (or one 14oz can) chicken stock
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup cooked jasmine rice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 pound shelled and deveined shrimp (optional)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 Thai chile, thinly sliced
Lime wedges, for serving

Trim chicken breast of fat and place in a saucepan with 4 cups water, chopped carrot, celery and onion and a good pinch of salt.  The chicken should be completely covered by the water.  Bring to just a simmer and cover, leaving the lid just slightly ajar and cook for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and let the chicken cool in the liquid.  Once cool enough to handle (maybe an hour) remove the chicken to a cutting board and with a slotted spoon remove and discard the vegetables, reserve the liquid.  Cut or shred chicken into large pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved poaching liquid plus extra broth, fish sauce, honey and rice and bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp (if using) and cook just until opaque, about 1 minute. Stir in the lime juice, cilantro, basil and chile and serve right away, passing lime wedges at the table.

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