What’s For Dinner? Ginger Chicken Soup


GingerChickenSoup

UPC’s Ginger Chicken Soup

There are a million varieties of chicken soup. That’s an accurate count, too, I think. Actually, if anything, I’m underestimating. There are probably at least 1 million and 1 varieties. At least. In fact, my wife and I end up with a new variety of chicken soup almost every night. Lately, we’ve been cooking up some chicken soup every night, re-using the leftovers from the night before, and adding in a new set of ingredients – some the same, some different. We’ve had some really delicious versions, and some that aren’t really worth getting all excited about. That’s cooking for you!

This Ginger Chicken Soup was one of the more impressive versions that we’ve put together over the past week. The way that the ginger brightened the flavor of the soup was amazing! It brought out all the best flavors of the other vegetables that I used. And the way that ginger works with chicken is like magic! I’m really going to have to use some ginger on some baked chicken now – I’ve done it extensively with stewed meats, chicken included, but now I have got to try it baked!

UPC’s Ginger Chicken Soup:

  • 2 Whole Chicken Legs (skin, bones, everything)
  • 2 inches Ginger, diced
  • 1/2 Jicama Root, chopped (would work with a sweet potato or diakon too; though that would result in a very different flavor)
  • 1 medium Carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium Golden Beet, chopped
  • 1 medium Zucchini, chopped
  • 3 sprigs Basil Leaves
  • 3 sprigs Basil Stalks, diced
  • Spices: Sea Salt, Turmeric, Sage
  • 6 cups Water

Serves: 2-4 (2 with a lot of leftovers)
Cook time: 45 minutes

1. Put the chicken legs and spices in the water and cook on high, covered.

2. While the chicken is heating up, chop the ingredients and add them to the pot. Here is the order that I add ingredients:

  • Ginger first (need the flavor!)
  • Carrots (hardest; needs the most time in the water to soften)
  • Jicama (or Sweet Potato)
  • Golden Beet (Very different flavor profile from red beet – I would use Sweet Potato or Rutabaga instead of Golden Beet if you need to substitute)
  • Diced Basil Stalks (Yes, dice up the stalks of the basil sprigs – these cook quite well, and the flavor is subtle but delicious)
  • Zucchini

3. Let the water boil, still on high heat (use a big pot) for 10 minutes.

4. Take the chicken legs out of the pot and pull them apart, shredding the meat and extracting the bones. Put the chicken back into the pot once it’s been shredded.
Note: I do this step right in the pot, shredding the chicken and extracting the bones all without removing them from the pot. If you’re going to do this, be very careful not to get burned by the steam or splashing.

5. Let the soup continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • How much do you enjoy chicken soup?
  • Seriously, how much do you love chicken soup?!?
  • Is chicken soup a year-round comfort food for you, or do you typically start turning to it as the weather turns?
  • What other soups are your fall and winter comfort foods?
  • Are you adventurous with your chicken soups?
  • Are you adventurous with your other soups?
  • What kinds of adventures have worked out well for you?
  • What has failed miserably?

Restaurant Review: Saigon Cafe, Jersey City, NJ


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http://www.saigoncafejc.com/

Eating out is always an interesting scenario. I know, intellectually, that I can eat a salad almost anywhere. Obviously, there are places that I choose to shy away from intentionally… But for the most part, finding a decent place to eat out, at this point in my diet, is more about whether or not the restaurant is going to serve me anything other than a salad that I’ll want. That’s the big question. There are some issues, that I’ve discussed in previous posts, that need to be carefully considered before eating out. Just keep these in mind when you’re eating out:

  1. All cooking surfaces are almost certainly greased with a soy oil or soy derivative oil.
  2. All dressings, sauces, and other flavorings (except spices, so far) almost certainly have soy and wheat in them.
  3. The meat is almost certainly CAFO meat-factory meat.

So, keeping in mind that I really enjoy cooking, and the fruits of those labors, it turns out to be fairly irregular that I eat out. Mostly, I make all of my own food, and I eat only things that came out of my kitchen. It’s the simple and delicious solution. And when I do go out, I keep notes.

Saigon Cafe, Grove Street, Jersey City, NJ

My first impression of the Saigon Cafe restaurant was a pleasant surprise. This looked like it would count as one of those “Local Hole-In-The-Wall” places, where you encounter some really top quality food. I was hoping that their menu would be packed to the brim with seriously traditional Vietnamese food. We were seated in a small dining area, with about 10 tables. The waiter was ancient, and my guess is that he was the proprietor of the place. I like that about a place. I usually assume that the food is more likely to be lovingly crafted when the proprietor is the person seating me at the tables. It’s a pride thing for them, not just a paycheck.

The menu was a little challenging for me, but that was not surprising. Keeping in mind that soy and rice are deeply ingrained in the various Asian cultures, I didn’t expect the menu to be teeming with meals that were soy free. But I did expect that I would be able to mix-n-match my way to a well conceived soy-free meal.

The waiter came over to take our order. He spoke passably good English, and had no trouble guiding my through my options as soon as I told him that I’m allergic to soy. He stood over my shoulder, pointing at menu items as I flipped the page. “You can eat that one, or that one.” He would say. And “No, no, not that one.” When I tried to order the slow-cooked beef short ribs. Short ribs are very Vietnamese, and I really enjoy the way they cook them. Except for the soy sauce part.

With the proprietor’s help, I settled on a meal in no time. I love seafood, and they were serving something they called Claypot Seafood Curry. I like curry, seafood, and the “Claypot” meals were supposedly slow-cooked stews – and I love things that are slow-cooked!

Claypot Seafood Curry

It was full of flavor! There was clearly some sweetener in the dish, as well as some coconut milk or cream. But the over-all flavor was strong, yet well balanced. The curry was a yellow-curry, as you can see in the picture, and was delightful. The seafood all seemed quite fresh, and was slow-cooked to perfection.

All told, my experience in Saigon Cafe was quite satisfactory! I definitely recommend it for anyone in the Grove Street area of Jersey City, NJ.

Quick Chicken Tagine


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I was reading the recent Travel and Leisure – Food Edition and stumbled on a picture of a Chicken Tagine served at a gas station in Morocco. The picture caption indicated that it may be the best gas station food you will ever eat – and I believe it! Not wanting to wait for my next trip to Morocco for a delicious meal of what appeared to be an amazingly tasty dish, I studied the picture for a few minutes and then decided to recreate it. On review: it was totally worth it!!!

What you’ll need (my recipe):

  • 1.5 Pounds Chicken Thigh
  • 3 Limes, skin removed, chopped
  • The skin from the above limes, chopped
  • 2 Medium Onions, chopped
  • 1 12oz can of olives, drained (mixed is best)
  • Half the above can of olives hand-crushed
  • 1 Medium Mango, chopped
  • 1 Red Pepper, sliced
  • 2 Inches Ginger, sliced
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
  • Seasoning: Italian Seasoning, Cumin, Black Pepper, Sea Salt
  • Paprika or Cayenne optional

Prep and Cook time: 50 minutes
Serves 2

In a soup pot, add the chicken, spices, the chopped mango, the ginger, and the chopped lime (not the skin) with about 2 cups of water and turn on high heat to a rolling boil. Being honest, I put the water and chicken in first, turn the heat on, then add the spices while I am chopping all the other ingredients. As you may have seen from my About Me page, I do things as I go along… It just seems to work out for me, though I do occasionally forget ingredients. If you’re going to chop and prep as you go, add the lime first, since that flavor is the most important flavor. After the lime, slice up the ginger and add that. Then get around to the spices, and finally the mango, olives, and pepper. Cover this once all ingredients are added, turn the heat down so that the rolling boil continues, but it doesn’t boil over the pot, and leave it alone while you tend to the onion and lime peels.

ChickenTagine_CookingWhile the soup is heating up, chop up the lime peel (this can be done with lemon as well) and the onions and put them in a separate pan on high heat with about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Cover this initially to keep the liquid in while they’re heating up – this will speed up the process of caramelizing, and they will taste better that way. I like to use a long thin cut of onion and lime for this dish, rather than square cuts. It takes a bit of extra work, I think, but it’s worth it in the end. They’ll serve like small noodles, and I think they preserve their flavor better that way.

As soon as the pan starts to sizzle, turn the heat down and stir regularly. You want these to caramelize. The onions should turn brown, and a sweet smell should start to waft up from the pan. But you don’t want them to over-cook and burn to the side of the pan. This will be fine for the onions, mostly, but it will ruin the flavor of the lime peel. It’s very important that you take your time on this, and make sure that the lime peel doesn’t overcook.

ChickenTagine_CookedOnce the lime peel and onions have caramelized, add the olive oil and turn the heat down to low. As I mentioned above, it is very important that the lime peel not overcook. Adding the olive oil will slow the cooking process, but really what you want to do is infuse the flavors of the onions and lime in to the olive oil. Keep this on low heat and uncovered, letting any of the liquid in the pan evaporate.

Serving

About 5 minutes before serving, add the olive oil mixture to the tagine pot. This should be at about 45 minutes of cook time, and the pot should have a nice stew-coloring, and smell delicious! Let this cook for another 5 minutes with all ingredients combined. Serve in soup bowls.

ChickenTagine_Plated2

What’s For Dinner?


Photo courtesy of simplyrecipes.com

Photo courtesy of simplyrecipes.com

Beef Short Rib Stew

Wow! Just saying the name makes my mouth water! Ok, props first… Today’s inspiration comes from the cover of Food & Wine Magazine. Take a quick look at the Feb 2013 and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about! That soup is so amazing looking, I almost ate the cover of the magazine! Fortunately, I managed to catch myself in time to remember that it’s paper, and not actually food. My sense of smell helped a little…

And back to today’s meal! In the spirit of the winter, I’ve been doing a lot of focusing on comfort foods, and there isn’t much more comforting than a great beef short rib recipe! Well, hopefully we can combine two of our most comforting foods in to one: Beef Short Rib with a nice winter stew. Let’s see how this breaks down:

What you’ll need:

  • 2-3 lb beef short ribs (I prefer bone-in)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 1 head fennel
  • 4 oz white button mushrooms
  • 2 chive onions
  • 4-6 cups bone broth (beef or chicken broth will do as well)
  • Spices: Ginger, Garlic both finely diced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Serves about 4
Prep and Cook time: about 60 minutes

First, begin cooking the steak. This is going to be almost like a stewed meat, but we’re going to crisp it right at the end. So, put the steak, with the spices, about 1 cup of water, and 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large frying pan, turn the heat to about 4 out of 10, and cover the pan. Let this cook for about 25 minutes, then flip it. When you flip the steak, check the water levels. You want the water to be all used up at the end of the next 25 minutes of cooking, but only just at the end.

Next we’re going to caramelize the onions, fennel, and mushrooms. If you’re up for it, you can do all the chopping and prep work before you flip the steak. You’ll want to start cooking the mushrooms at just about the same time as you flip the steak. The mushrooms take the longest to cook, so we’re going to start those first. Chop the mushrooms up, put them in a pan with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, and turn the heat on to medium-low (2.5 out of 10) with a lid. Let this sit for a good 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put the broth in a large cook pot and turn the heat on medium low. This should start getting ready at this point. Chop the carrots and half the radishes to similar sizes and add them to the pot. Cover this and let it come to a simmer.

If you haven’t already, chop the onions and fennel. These should be coarsely chopped to a similar size as the mushrooms. As the mushrooms are starting to cook down and show some color, around 10 minutes of cooking, add the onions and fennel to the pan. Turn the heat up to about 3.5, and stir regularly, leaving the pan covered in between stirring. Keep stirring regularly until the extra water from the onions and fennel has been used up, and they are starting to show some color as well, then turn the heat back down to 2.5 and keep covered. You may need to add some more coconut oil – so if the onions or fennel are sticking to the pan at all when you stir periodically, add another half tablespoon of coconut oil. Keep stirring and covering until the onions and fennel have turned a nice shade of brown. This should take another 10 minutes or so.

Now turn your attention back to the steak. At this point, the water should all have boiled off. If there is water left, drain it, but make sure there is a bit of coconut oil left – you’ll need it! Turn the heat up to a medium-high (about a 7) and crisp each side of the steak. As soon as the steak is done, turn the heat off and attempt to de-bone it. Usually, since we stewed this, the bones should just come right out. If they present some trouble, that’s fine, you can serve this dish with bone-in short ribs and it will still be great! Just remember to serve a bones-platter.

Last: slice the remaining radishes, and the chive onions. The radishes can be sliced in large round slices, very thin. The chive onions can be sliced the long way, leaving long noodle-like strips of chive. These will be served over the top of the finished product, like a garnish.

Serving:

Serve the soup first. Ladle the soup in to a bowl and add the short ribs to the soup. Stir this up just the slightest bit, so the steak is a part of the dish. Now, in the middle of the soup, right on top, serve a portion of the caramelized onions, fennel, and mushrooms so that they sit right there in the middle. The person eating will love the presentation. Last: sprinkle the radishes and chives over the top of the soup bowl, getting relatively even distribution. And enjoy!

As an after-thought: any leftovers can be combined in a slow cooker for 2-4 hours and cooked down. Just add some sweet potatoes around 60 minutes before serving, and you’ll have a delicious stew!

Give it a try! Let me know what your thoughts are, which wines you paired this with, and what your alternate vegetable/meat choices were in the comments section!

What’s For Dinner – Chicken Vegetable Soup


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Just a quick post, as it’s Sunday night, and it happens to also be my birthday. But I just wanted to let you all know that the “What’s For Dinner” came out great! Take a look at this picture. And if you missed your chance to make it today, here’s the “What’s For Dinner” post for you to use tomorrow. Enjoy!!

What’s For Dinner?

I hope you love it as much as I did! For more What’s For Dinner ideas, tune in every day to Urban Paleo Chef, and I’ll pass my ideas on to you!

What’s For Dinner?


PaleoChickenNoodleSoup

Continuing with my “What’s For Dinner” posts, today’s dinner will be a shorter version of my above photo of the Paleo Chicken Noodle soup, which as you recall, was done in a crock pot and took just about 24 hours to complete. I hope to keep these up daily, along with my otherwise enjoyable daily posts about my other meals, and my random food thoughts. And so far, so good! So, here it is:

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Chicken meat (your favorite cuts; for soup, I prefer chicken thighs)
  • 2 Leeks, chopped
  • 1 Zucchini, chopped (not peeled)
  • 2 Parsnips, chopped (small; 1 if medium)
  • 2 Carrots, chopped (not “baby” carrots)
  • 2 Sweet Potato or Yam, chopped
  • 4-6 oz White Button Mushrooms, sliced (Shiitake will be great here too)
  • 8 oz Celery, chopped
  • Your favorite soup spices; I will be using Turmeric, Italian seasoning, Sea Salt, ground Pepper

Several hours before dinner: I suggest starting the meat immediately, adding the turmeric, some salt, some pepper, and some Italian seasoning, 4 oz of the chopped celery, and one of the sweet potatoes. The flavor of the celery is important for the stewed chicken, and it will retain that flavor. You don’t want to use all of the celery, though, because you still want that flavor to be prominent in the final dish, and the best way to do that is by having some fresh celery added in close to serving time. You want one of the sweet potatoes to have mostly fallen apart, becoming part of the broth by the time you serve, while the other will be added later, so that it contributes to the colors of the dish. The chicken in a chicken soup is excellent if it’s allowed to stew for several hours on a low heat; a crock pot is perfect for this if you have one available. Let this cook until approximately 1 hour before serving.

About an hour before serving: add the mushrooms, parsnips, carrots, and the other sweet potato. Make sure to stir it well, so that the vegetables are well mixed. If you did not cut up the chicken before hand, now is the time to take the chicken out of the pot (you can leave the vegetables in) and make sure the chicken is also in bite-sized pieces, like the vegetables. I have a general rule of thumb that the primary flavor ingredients should always be the largest sized ingredient in a dish. And while that’s true for chicken soup as well, the pieces should still be bite sized as we don’t eat soup with a knife! Ok, joking aside, put the chicken back in the pot and let the mushrooms and root vegetables cook with it.

About 15-20 minutes before serving: add the remaining celery, the leeks, and all of the zucchini. These are soft enough vegetables that if you add them too soon, they will not retain either their flavor or their texture, and both are important for the soup. Also, now is the time to taste test the broth. You’ll need to add more Italian seasoning, sea salt, and pepper at this point, to make certain that the flavor is what you’re looking for. As always, use the seasoning sparingly, and taste frequently. It’s better to be just under than just over, especially with salt.

And enjoy! For more “What’s For Dinner” suggestions, be sure to check back to Urban Paleo Chef every day!