Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cook the Books 2013: Soup weather = Tom Yum Goong

March was filled with more work travel, lots of family occasions and visitors, and now a it didn't allow me much time in the kitchen to try out this month's Cook the Books selection, Good Fish by Becky Selengut. But, my Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp and Lemongrass) soup was just what the doctor ordered, and I've got the ingredients on-hand to make the Wild Salmon Chowder with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and Quinoa Cakes with Smoked Trout and Chive Sour Cream in the next few days. I also have BIG love for sardines, so always have them in the pantry and will try not just her version of Pasta con la Sarde for sure, but the fresh Skillet Sardines too.

Anyhow, on to what I did make...

Cooking shallots and lemongrass is up there in terms of kitchen smells, but it's the kaffir lime leaves that are the magic ingredient here and will transport you right into the heart of Thailand as you cook this deliciously, evocatively, fragrant broth. Or at least that's what happened to me.

Though this isn't an overly complex recipe, making the stock takes some time, so once again I broke it down over two days. Be sure to brown the shrimp shells over high heat in order to impart their distinctive flavor to the broth.

Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp & Lemongrass Soup)
Adapted from Good Fish by Becky Selengut
Serves 4

2 tablespoons high-heat vegetable oil (I used safflower)
1 medium onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (shells reserved)
5 to 6 cups of water
3 tomatoes, medium dice, or one 14-oz can of diced tomatoes with their juice
6 Kaffir lime leaves, or zest of 1 lime
6-8 thin slices of fresh, peeled galangal or ginger
2 jalapeños, halved (remove the seeds and membranes if you want to decrease the heat of your soup)
1/2 cup sliced shallots
3 stalks of lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces, woody top half discarded
1 cup cremini or button mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3-6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (2-3 limes)
Whole cilantro leaves, for garnish

Making the soup stock

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a stockpot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

Turn the heat up to high and add the reserved shrimp shells. They will turn their recognizable pink almost immediately, but saute about 3-4 minutes until they are lightly browned.

Add the water to the pot. If you are using canned tomatoes, drain the juice into a measuring cup and add enough water to total 6 cups.

Stir in the sliced galangal, jalapeños, and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a boil.

Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits and simmer gently for approximately 30 minutes. (This is when the fragrance magic happens)

Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve and set aside. If you make the night before, store the stock in the fridge overnight.

Making the soup

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat, and add the shallots and lemongrass. Saute about 8-10 minutes until  lightly browned.

Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and reserved stock and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the fish sauce. Simmer for another 10 minutes, then add the shrimp and turn off the heat (the residual heat will do the cooking for you).

Add the juice of 2 limes and season to taste with salt. Add more fish sauce if necessary, as well as lime juice which will brighten the flavors. A little sugar or honey can help if your soup is tart or bitter.

Be sure to taste the soup at this stage and balance the flavors according to your palate.

Serve garnished with cilantro leaves, and remember you can lightly chew on the lemongrass stalks to release some of their flavor, but do not try to eat them!

Cooking notes:
While deveining shrimp is not the sexiest job in the kitchen, it was actually a first for me and I kind of enjoyed it. This takes about 10 minutes, so plan your prep and cooking time accordingly. Selengut's website includes a number of how-to videos, including one on deveining shrimp.

I had exactly, to the drop, 3 tablespoons of fish sauce left in the bottle. I love it when that happens!

Here's an in-depth, Spring-filled post reviewing this cookbook by Oh, Briggsy, with the monthly round-up post coming soon from Grow & Resist!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Swapper Profiles: Angela Mc and J.K. Kaufman + Beer Bread Recipe

I am extremely pleased to introduce the dynamic swap duo of Angela and J.K.. Though in fact they haven't been coming to the swap for all that long of a time, it feels like they have (in the best of ways). They always come supremely well-stocked, which is evidence of the hard work and love they put into their cooking. Their packaging is always playful, and matches their fun spirits and smiles every time. Between them they've busted out Tea Cookies in assorted flavors, Marshmallows, Chocolate Covered Caramels, Rustic Chocolate Choffy Ball Truffles, Mini Pies (Blood Orange & Blueberry, Savory Goose, Persimmon, and Apple Sugar + Spice), and Orange-Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies. They also co-write a blog, Tea Time Adventures. Read on to see what else gets them excited in the kitchen, plus nab a tasty looking recipe for Beer Bread. Cheers to that!

Angela and J.K. with their Death by Caramel Brownies

Name: Angela Mc

Home (+ hometown swap): SF/sf food swappers

Angela's savory goose mini pie was delicious
How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?
I think I first saw it in an email, I just know that it was instant attraction to the idea and we swore we would go to the next one! Since last year? Perhaps in June? It was the swap at the old venue in the Mission.

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?
Mini-pies. A friend had given me a booklet called "Bike Basket Pies" and we thought they'd be perfect to swap. We made four kinds. 3 fruit and one savory.

What’s your favorite thing about swapping?
Getting ideas from other swappers! It always seems like someone has made something that is such a brilliant idea that I must steal it. Last swap it was the tea-infused simple syrup.

Who or what most influences your cooking?
I just pick it up as I go, but one famous chef I Love is Jacques Pepin. He has had such an varied career, and his autobiography is awesome.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
Toaster oven. For real. It's so much easier and tastier to toast than microwave food. A close second is ye olde immersion blender.

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?
Salt. I love salt. Always.

Biggest food surprise? 

When people say they "can't" cook. Or is that Pet Peeve? Hmmm.

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?
Brunch! A fried chicken, waffle kind of combo with Lots of fresh fruit. Bacon.

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm... eating out and then blogging about it!

Favorite local food experience:
Annual Street Food Festival!!

Name: J.K. Kaufman

Home (+ hometown swap): San Francisco

Profession: Retired

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?
Angela found out about it and we decided to participate. I think our first swap was in October.

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?
Judy Rosenberg's (Rosie's Bakery in Boston) orange pecan chocolate-chip cookies from her All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book (page 101). They're my current favorite of the things I bake and definitely my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie.

What’s your favorite thing about swapping?
Meeting other people who enjoy creating good things in the kitchen and coming home with a bag full of new things to try.

Who or what most influences your cooking?
Whatever I feel like eating. But I rarely cook, unless you count my morning oatmeal. I'm a baker. Friends invite me to dinner and asks me to bring bread and/or dessert.

Death By Caramel Brownies in the making

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
The silicone paddle for my stand mixer. It scrapes the side of the bowl as it beats. My chocolate tempering machine is a close second. I have a serious weakness for gadgets and small appliances.

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?

Biggest food surprise?
Discovering that the taste of charcoal-grilled food that I didn't like was really the excess lighter fluid my father used.

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?

When I'm not in the kitchen… I'm reading, either dead tree or online. Or out eating with Angela or other friends.

Favorite local food experience:
Tasting the creations of the best artisan chocolatiers at Fog City News on Market Street.

Beer Bread Recipe by Angela

Preheat oven to 375°
Grease a bread pan with olive oil, nonstick spray, or butter.
3 c flour3 T sugar1 T Baking Powder1 tsp. salt1 c cheddar cheese (shredded)1 T chives

Whisk these dry ingredients together
Add 1 beer and stir. Mixture will be sticky.

Put mixture in prepared pan. Bake 55 minutes.
Remove from oven, rub a little butter over the top, and return it to the oven for 2-3 minutes.

See original post with more pictures here.