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.
Adapted from Good Fish by Becky Selengut
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!
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!