Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chicken Masala Soup (Recipe 6 - Le Creuset Challenge)

Chicken Masala Soup
I have been daydreaming about making this soup for nearly a full term human pregnancy at this point. 6 months, right? KIDDING. I know it's a year. But seriously, since reading The Moonstone this summer (more on that later), and honestly, even a bit before, I felt like I needed to try a totally different flavor profile that I'm not too familiar with: Indian food! I like Indian food, especially things involving bright green peas, deliciously roasted cauliflower, anything chickpeas, and anything involving more spices than I have fingers to count on. However, I hardly ever remember to get it when thinking about eating out, which is both my own fault and a damn shame. Anyways. I digress! I got an idea for this soup when a smarter friend than I mentioned it was her favorite Indian food dish; naturally my brain was like "Hmm, I wonder if I can make that, and double wonder if I can make it as a soup!?" Spoiler alert, yes. Yes, you obviously can, or else I wouldn't be writing a post about having made it. Anyways. I have big, future plans involving bringing back my Dinner Train Book Club dinner party for The Moonstone with this recipe, but first I need to actually make said moonstones. Don't worry, I have a plan for those too. Stay tuned...probably until forever, but stay tuned nonetheless - it'll hold me accountable to actually make moves to make them happen (and let me know if you want to read with me!)

Onto the pressing matter: this soup is actually delicious. I know I say that about all the soups, but I really mean it this time. I'd go as far as to too my own horn and to say it's one of my best recipes. Try it, and let me know if I'm right or if I am right. Though there are more ingredients than there are grains of sand on a tiny beach, they combine to make something scintillating. Having no clue how to make any Indian food (I'd never cooked with garam masala before, can you believe that?), I read up a lot on other recipes, and this is adapted from many places with recipes for Tikka Masala, Chicken Masala, etc., including but not limited to The Soup Addict, The Smitten Kitchen, Serious Eats, and Eating Well. All are different, include different ingredients etc. I had the full intention of using coriander, as many recipes do, but that plan was thwarted when I realized I had three jars of cumin and no jars of coriander. I didn't notice. Anyways. That's enough out of me. Make this warm, warming soup wherever you are wintering, and day dream about India with me, why don't you?

Chicken Masala Soup
Chicken Masala Soup
Serves roughly 6-8

1.5 lb skinless chicken
½ tsb ground cumin
½ tsp cumin seed
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp ground pepper
¼ tsp kosher salt

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 medium/large onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 serrano pepper, seeded and diced small
3 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp tumeric
1 Tbsp tomato paste
28 oz canned diced tomatoes in juice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
32 oz low sodium chicken stock
15 oz chickpeas
8 oz fresh spinach
15 oz frozen peas
salt & pepper to taste
½-1 cup Greek yogurt to serve


1) Combine chicken rub spices and rub onto chicken to coat.  Cover and let sit for at least one hour in the fridge.  
2) Preheat the oven to broil.  Broil chicken for approximately 15 minutes until darkened and the juices run cool - bonus points for blackened bits.  About halfway through, turn the chicken over.  Remove from the oven, let sit for 8-10 minutes, and chop into small, bite-sized pieces.
3) In a large Dutch oven or Le Creuset over medium, melt coconut oil and saute onion for roughly 5-7 minutes or until translucent.
4) Add garlic, ginger, pepper, and spices and saute for 3 minutes.
5) Add tomato paste, tomatoes with juice, and 1 Tbsp cilantro, stirring to combine occasionally.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
6) Add chicken stock and bring to a vigorous simmer (but not a full boil to prevent burning).  Cook at least 15 minutes at said vigorous simmer to reduce the liquids a bit.
7) Remove from heat and blend until mostly combined using an immersion blender.  It’s okay if some chunks of tomato or onion remain!
8) Put back on heat, bringing back to a low simmer this time.  Add chickpeas, cooking roughly 3 minutes.
9) Stir in the diced chicken, cook for a minute or so.
10.  Add spinach to the top of the pot, do not stir, and cover the pot for about 3 minutes to let wilt.
11) Uncover and add peas, remaining 1 Tbsp cilantro, stirring to combine, and cooking for roughly 5 more minutes.
12) Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper.
13)  Serve with a generous tablespoon dollop of Greek yogurt per portion if you know you will have leftovers, or, stir in ½ to 1 cup of Greek yogurt if you will be serving all of this immediately.
14) Go back for seconds.
Chicken Masala Soup: roasted rubbed chicken process

Chicken Masala Soup: a watched spinach will never wilt!

- Use this chicken rub any time - on the grill, on it’s own, not in soup, etc.  It’s really simple, really delicious, and really, really easy.  
- Use the chickpea can (rinsed out, duh) to measure out your 15 oz of frozen peas! Always add them last to maintain their vibrant flavor and even more vibrant green color, instead of fatigue green (gross).  
- Vegetarians: sorry.  BUT.  I got to thinking while doing this, and would like one of you to try the following.  In lieu of chicken/chicken stock, use veggie broth, 1 extra can of chickpeas and peas, and/or roast some cauliflower with the spices and a small dash of oil.  Please let me know how it turns out!
- Again - if you plan to save some of this for later, especially for freezing purposes, do not add the yogurt to the pot directly.  Cream soups never, ever, never defrost in an attractive or appetizing way.  This is why I recommend adding the yogurt directly to individual portions - allowing people to add to their personal preference too!
- I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I'd say any skinless cut of chicken will work, even if it is on the bone.
- Pair this with nan, roti, or other tasty Indian flat bread.  It would also be great with a crisp white wine or cold beer!

Chicken Masala Soup

Chicken Masala Soup:
Once you add in the yogurt, just you try and wait to take a picture before devouring it.
It's impossible

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Recipe 7: Black and Orange Chili (aka Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili)

Black and Orange Chili (aka Black Bean Pumpkin Chili)
This recipe came about as a craving for chili, and a desire to clear out the last remaining beer straggler from the fall in my fridge.  I like beer, but I’m not a huge consumer of it, and moreover, I’m doing Dryuary.  Which...well, sigh.  I miss you, wine.  But after a week, I kind of stopped caring, and am actually kind of enjoying the weird sense of freedom I’m enjoying.  Is that weird?  Anyways, I wanted to clear it out, and had a pumpkin beer, a can of pumpkin, and a can of black beans, so I thought I’d revisit pumpkin chili!  

It turned out better than my first attempt (I thought, but then again, I was starving by the time I ate it!), but in the future I’m going to up the spice profile.  My long term, committed relationship with sriracha seems to have increased my tolerance of spice, but that’s just me.  Spice as you like, and leave room to build!  I wanted to use turkey for this, but due to the New Years holiday and a storm that left New England grocery stores looking like the apocalypse had hit, there was none to be had!  I used chicken.  Meh?  I think turkey, or another lean beef or pork would be slightly more flavorful.  Or even TVP, if you amp up the spice profile a bit.  Lastly, I tried to aim for black and orange throughout, as I think this might be a fun recipe to revisit in October, when pumpkin beers and pumpkin flavors invade the universe again!  This could also be a great recipe for a viewing of one my favorite holiday movies: Nightmare Before Christmas!  

Black and Orange Chili (Black Bean Pumpkin Chili)
Serves roughly 6
Black and Orange Chili (aka Black Bean Pumpkin Chili)

Friday, January 3, 2014

These Broken Ration Bars (aka Date Bars with Almond and Coconut) - Book Club Recipes

These Broken Ration Bars
(AKA Date Bars with Almond and Coconut)
While reading These Broken Stars, I came to realize something fairly obvious (self low five): food in survival kits is ubiquitously described as nasty.  This should not come as a shock - it’s not designed to titilate the senses and your palate; it’s there so you don’t start eating poison berries (but you may need to, these ration bars don’t just grow on trees...actually almost all ingredients in mine do, come to think).  I've had an MRE, and I'm still unsure how I feel about self heating bags and faux strawberry milkshakes in bags, and basically anything bagged and tagged to last forever. ANYWAYS.  I started thinking about this one in August, and had in mind some hazy plan to make granola bars.  But guys, granola bars are so boring.  And who wants to be bored when surviving in a ballroom gown and scopin’ out the only other human who conveniently happens to be a hottie who also happens wear a uniform seemingly made only of Under Armour, amirite, Lilac LaRoux?  

I set a super un-hyperspeed course (hello, it is now January) to make a ration bar as ungross, as palatable, and as low maintenance as possible.  I tried to use things I had on hand that you might too.  This includes almond butter, which I tried, but wanted to use up after realizing that I remain unconvinced that it actually tastes better than peanut butter.  They’re ultimately pretty simple and have about 9 ingredients (dates, almonds, almond butter, coconut, coconut oil, pepitas, oats, maple syrup, and a dash of salt - no dehydration for my troops allowed!).  The real beauty?  You can kind of throw in whatever you want, or roll them into balls and into the granola if you prefer to bite balls as opposed to squares while rationing your food to survive. I may have created the least practical survival bars ever - pretty sure they will get a little messy/squishy if not refrigerated.  Hence, you should only take them if you plan to get stranded in Antarctica, Siberia, the Yukon, or a planet resembling some foul those three.  That said, they do taste pretty delicious, have a lot of natural proteins and good sugars in them, and are incredibly easy and quick to make.  As usual, I looked at a few other recipes to reference the ratios, but then did my own thing (The Kitchn, OhSheGlows).

The moral?  Next time you plan to get stuck in a survival situation, pause before you crash to make These Broken Ration Bars (pro tip, they may be good for future holiday treat use!).  Enjoy them with your ladyfriends while you book club and discuss who you’d like to get stranded on an unknown planet with: Tim Riggins, Indiana Jones, Tarver Merendsen, or Neville Longbottom.  Note: don’t feed them to people with nut allergies unless you hate them and have a burning desire to try out prison for a spell.  

These Broken Ration Bars
(AKA Date Bars with Almond and Coconut)

These Broken Ration Bars
(aka Date Bars with Coconut and Almond)

These Broken Ration Bars
(AKA Date Bars with Almond and Coconut)

(see notes)
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