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Farewell Winter – Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
– John Steinbeck

The first day of Spring is a classic metaphor for new beginnings. But it’s also the end to the season of heartiness and perseverance. In Winter we huddle around the hearth. We tend to nest inside. We focus inward. And when Spring blossoms forth, we follow. Bursting with the energy pent up the long, cold months.

To pay tribute to this day of transition, I wanted to find a dish that captures the balance of the heartiness of winter with the fresh zest of Spring. I found it in Tom Kha Gai, a traditional Thai soup made from chicken, ginger, coconut milk and mushrooms. Soup by its very nature embodies the wintry sense of comfort, while the ginger and lemon epitomize the bright promise of Spring. I found my inspiration recipe from She Wears Many Hats and got to work.

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I’m still a Thai cooking novice, so I was nervous taking on a traditional dish like this. But, it turned out to be much easier than I thought; and now I’m ready to face the new season by challenging myself to make even more exotic dishes.

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Here’s my Tom Kha Gai recipe, completely Paleo, and fairly effortless…

Thai Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

Ingredients

1 lb of Cooked chicken, shredded (I used light and dark meat)

  • 3-4 Peeled carrots, sliced into coins
  • 3 T Cilantro, fresh leaves
  • 1 1-inch piece Ginger, fresh
  • 1 T Lemongrass, dried
  • 8 oz Mushrooms
  • 6 c Chicken stock or broth
  • 1 can of Coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 2 T Fish sauce
  • 3 T Lime juice
  • 1/2 t Red pepper flakes
  • 1 T Olive oil
  • Lime wedges
  • 1 c cashews

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook carrot coins for about 4 minutes, stirring often. They should still be fairly firm. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In same saucepan, add ginger and lemongrass, stir to toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, lime juice and pepper flakes; bring to a simmer and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add chicken and simmer for about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in coconut milk, fish sauce, and cilantro; lower heat and allow to mingle for about 10 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Toast cashews in toaster oven for about 4 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
  7. Top individual soup bowls with cashews. Garnish with cilantro leaves and/or lime wedges.

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Easy, right? Can’t think of a better way to finish out Winter. Enjoy and Happy Spring!

Parsnip Apple Table

Recipe: Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup

Winter has quite the arsenal – snow, ice, sleet, biting wind, single-digit temperatures. It’s bitter, gray and oppressive. Its force can’t be mellowed by mere shovels and salt. If its waging a war, it certainly feels like we’re losing.

But its not raging; it’s simply being winter. And its nature can be just as lovely as it is fierce. It has quite a quiet beauty; it’s crisp and serene.

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But what I love best about winter is that it forces us, through its snow and ice, to slow down, and to center our lives around the home. We fortify and warm each other with our company and the meals we share. So as winter prepares to leave us this year, I wanted to share with you my sure-fire way to beat winter’s chill: roasted apple and parsnip soup.

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The original recipe comes from Chef John. We modified some of the seasoning a bit to bring a little more heat to the table. The result is creamy and soothing, but with a kick. It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket and then getting a little static electricity jolt. Just the sort of spark you need to snap you out of the dreary winter blues!

Apple Parsnip Soup

Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup with Cayenne

Ingredients:

(makes 6)

  • 2 lbs parsnips, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch sticks
  • 2 green apples, peeled, cut in thick slices
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 russet potato, peeled, cut in 8 pieces
  • 6 cups chicken broth (can combine with some water if you want)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 t. cayenne
  • garnish with rosemary crackers, walnuts or croutons, and more cayenne, if desired

Directions:

  • Cut up parsnips. Discard any parsnip centers that seem too tough.
  • Peel apples, then cut into slices.
  • Place parsnips and apples on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes until edges are caramelized.
  • Then place parsnips and apples into a steam pot on high with the sliced potato and chicken broth.  After the pot comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Next, use a stick blender to process apples and vegetables until smooth (or you can process in a regular blender).
  • Taste the soup for texture. If it is too fibery, you can strain it here. After that, add the cream and cayenne.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with desired add-ins.