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Archive for December, 2009

Restorative Chicken Soup

The holidays can make even the most spirited among us weary, and this Christmas was no exception.  My brother, who inevitably stirs up a whole host of family issues whenever he comes North, was visiting with his adorable one-year-old son, his lovely and long-suffering fiancée, and an unneutered male boxer, which brought the holiday dog total to 5 (and the family redneck factor up to 10). My sister, who DETESTS interlopers, invited her sister-in-law (a wonderful lady, by the way), who in turn invited her ex-boyfriend. Awesome.

Now this alone could potentially make for an intense holiday.  But that’s not how we roll on Christmas.  My sister, 19 weeks pregnant, had a scare that landed us in hospital around 2pm Christmas day.  Thankfully everything checked out fine and we got home just in time to put two beef tenderloins in the oven, mash some potatoes and eat at a reasonable hour.  But just moments before dinner, my brother’s boxer and my sister’s golden retriever got into a vicious scrap over a cheese wrapper (yes, a cheese wrapper).  My brother, never one to be out done in the drama department, decided to intervene and ended up with a deep puncture wound to the hand.  My mother, a nurse, was able to sufficiently bandage his hand til morning when he got it stitched up (thanks, Dr. B!), thus avoiding a second Christmas visit to the ER. Go Mom.

When Matt and I returned home, we were mentally wounded, and I determined that some serious medicinal chicken soup was in order.  This version contains ginger, garlic and hot chile – just the sorts of things that make you feel better when you’re feeling icky.

1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs)

1 carrot, halved

1 onion, unpeeled and cut in half

3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half

1 hot chile (a jalapeño works just fine)

1 cinnamon stick

3 whole star anise

1 three-inch piece of peeled ginger

2 tbsp cilantro stems

Juice of one lime mixed with the juice of 1 tangerine

Salt and pepper to taste

Whatever type of noodle you prefer – I used udon (think I may use ramen next time), enough for 4-6 bowls of soup

For Serving:

Scallions, finely sliced

Chopped cilantro

Lime wedges

Sambal Oelek (chili paste)

A drizzle of sesame oil

  • Put the chicken, carrot, onion, garlic, chile, cinnamon stick, anise, ginger and cilantro stems into a large saucepan.
  • Pour in water until the there’s about 2 inches above the chicken, stir in the salt and add in the citrus juice.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.  Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Remove the breast meat from the bird (you can remove the dark meat, too, but I’m not wild about dark meat in my soup), chop it into bite-sized pieces and save for later.  Return the chicken bones to the pot.  Simmer for another hour or so until the broth has a rich chicken flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Strain the soup and allow to cool, and when cold, chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight to allow the fat the rise to the surface, so it becomes a solid layer you can easily remove.
  • Re-heat the broth, adding in the reserved chicken meat and cook your pasta of choice in a separate pot.
  • When ready to serve, divide the noodles among the bowls, sprinkle in the chopped cilantro and sliced scallions and pour in the hot aromatic broth.  Top off with a dab of sambal oelek, a drizzle of sesame oil and a squeeze of lime, if you like.

Make 4 -6 bowls of sanity and well-being.

Along with soup, I served a quick chopped salad of radicchio, fennel, daikon radish, scallions, cilantro and clementine with a lime-olive oil vinaigrette.

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I know, I know. It’s really late to be posting about Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m lame. And lazy. But c’mon, it’s the holidays and everyone’s swamped and slightly miserable.  Well now, since some people do a Thanksgiving-style dinner for their Christmas dinner (not my cup of tea, but to each her own) I thought I’d go ahead and share in a very tardy fashion.

As the November 2009 issue was (sigh…) the very last Gourmet magazine ever, my own little tribute was to prepare as many recipes from the final issue as possible. Below is the menu with links to recipes:

Cider Glazed Turkey (Gourmet)

My Grandmother’s Turkey Dressing (top secret)

Kale with Panfried Walnuts [and Pancetta, my addition] (Gourmet)

Mashed Potatoes with Turkey Gravy (family standards)

Roasted Carrot (from the Rooftop Farm, see previous post), Parsnip, Parsley root, Golden Beet, Sweet Potato and Shallot (you don’t really need a recipe for this)

Shaved Beet and Bitter Greens Salad with Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette (Gourmet)

Mama Stamberg’s Craberry Relish (of NPR Fame, THE BEST, it’s spiked with horseradish)

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie (Gourmet)

Here are some quick notes on the recipes:  For the cider glazed turkey, I only used the glaze portion of the recipe and it was tasty, but it didn’t impart a tremendous amount of flavor into the skin. I also stuffed butter and fresh herbs under the skin which may not have allowed the sweet cider flavor to come through. (Note: My mother and I are morally obligated make to my grandmother’s turkey dressing (that’s what she called it, but it’s a fairly standard sausage stuffing). We are also now obligated to torture unsuspecting family members with a slap to the face with a very phallic raw turkey neck as we make said turkey dressing. They finally retaliated this year and it was all out turkey neck war. My brother-in-law remains twitchy even today.) For the turkey, the key is getting the right bird. Every year I haul (actually, my husband hauls) a fresh turkey on the train to Connecticut from my Saturday farmers market (Dipaola is the purveyor) because it’s really just that good (free-range, all natural and certified organic). The NPR cranberry relish is, in my opinion, essential as well.

The kale was alright, but it was really just a token “healthy” dish at the table, something to push the rest of the food through. The shaved bitter green salad was delicious, but I 86’d the garlic vinaigrette and substituted a warm maple dressing (fry up 4 slices of bacon and remove from the skillet, keep about 4 tbsps of bacon fat in the pan and whisk in 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard and 6 tsps of red wine vinegar, add salt and pepper to taste. Use warm for hearty greens like escarole, otherwise allow it to come to room temperature for other salads) and added blue cheese to the mix. Finally, the triumph of the night was the bourbon pumpkin pie – the recipe is perfect “as is” and has just the right amount of booziness.  I served it with a righteous calvados whipped cream, but I must admit it was a little much with the bourbon in the pie.  It would be perfect for baked apples or any other fall pie.

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