Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Udon Chicken Noodle Soup

With L being in preschool our family has not gone longer than 4 weeks without someone having a cold.  With preschool ending soon I am hopeful that this will be our last round of colds until September.  However, I had this same thought a month ago and here we again eating our favorite "cure for the common cold" soup!  Go ahead and double the soup as you'll want to have leftovers!


2-12 Tbs. canola oil
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 34 lb.), butterflied (cut horizontally almost all the way through and then opened like a book)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium shallots (about 4 oz.), peeled and thinly sliced into rings
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, outer layers discarded, halved lengthwise, and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. packed light brown sugar
5-12 cups lower-salt chicken broth
3-12 oz. crimini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered (1-12 cups)
9 oz. fresh, or dried, udon noodles
1 Thai bird chile (or 1 small serrano pepper), sliced into thin rings
8 large fresh torn basil leaves; plus sprigs for garnish
1 medium lime, half juiced and half cut into wedges
1 Tbs. soy sauce; more to taste
2 medium scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
12 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Heat 1-12 Tbs. of the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Season the chicken with 12 tsp. each salt and pepper, and cook without disturbing until it’s browned and releases easily from the bottom of the pot, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is browned and almost firm to the touch (just short of cooked through), 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool.  If short on time you can make the soup while the chicken is cooking in the oven.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and the shallots to the pot. Sprinkle with 14 tsp. salt, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the shallots start soften, about 2 minutes. Add the lemongrass, ginger, and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the ginger and lemongrass sizzle and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and raise the heat to medium high. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package directions.

Use your fingers or the tines of a fork to shred the chicken. Add the chicken to the broth and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Discard the lemongrass. Stir in the torn basil, lime juice, and soy sauce. Divide the noodles among 4 large, deep bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles, and garnish with the basil sprigs and scallions, chile, carrot, and cilantro, if using. Serve with the lime wedges for squeezing and more soy sauce to taste.

*This soup is also a great for shredded, leftover roast chicken in place of the chicken breast. Just add it to the soup along with the chiles, basil, lime juice, and soy sauce.

Serves 4

Adapted from Fine Cooking 
Issue 104

Ginger, Garlic Green Beans

These green beans obviously go best with asian food, but they are so good we make them this way even if we aren't having asian!


1 Tablespoon peanut oil
12 lb green beans
1 Tablespoon (generous) finely chopped ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil and add the green beans until bright green and just tender - about 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  The green beans can be made a few hours ahead and kept in the refrigerator.  Heat the peanut oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat.  When hot add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant - about 1 minute.  Add the green beans and soy sauce and stir fry for several minutes, until the green beans are hot.  Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Adapted from The New York Times, Recipe: String Beans with Ginger and Garlic
November 15, 2006

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake and the Best Ever Biscuit

We have been getting amazing strawberries lately and this seemed like the perfect dessert for M's 1st birthday!  The biscuits were delicious by themselves and since I had extra dough I made enough of the biscuits to take, along with some jam (aka scones), to L's school for teacher appreciation week.  


1312 oz. (about 3 cups) all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. granulated sugar; plus about 3 Tbs. for sprinkling
112 Tbs. baking powder
34 tsp. table salt
6 oz. (12 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
112 cups heavy cream; plus about 3 Tbs. for brushing
112 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
1-2 Tbs. cold water, as needed

5 cups strawberry slices (from about 3 pints)
1 to 3 Tbs. granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries

Whipped cream:
112 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. confectioners' sugar

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Toss with a fork to combine. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or a fork until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. Combine the cream and vanilla, make a well in the center of the flour and pour the cream mixture into the well. Mix with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just combined; it will look shaggy and still feel a little dry. Gently knead by hand five or six times to pick up any dry ingredients remaining in the bottom of the bowl and to create a loose ball.  If the dough will not hold a ball, add the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough holds a loose ball.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and pat into a flat disc.  Refrigerate the dough for about an hour.  Heat the oven to 425°F.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out until about 14 inch thick.  Using a 2 12 - 3 inch round cookie cutter cut out the dough placing them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Brush each biscuit with a thin layer of cream and sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake until the biscuits are medium golden brown on top and the bottoms are golden brown, about 18 minutes.

To prepare the berries toss them with 1 tablespoon sugar and taste. If they’re still tart, sprinkle with another 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar. Let sit at room temperature until the sugar dissolves and the berries begin to release their juices, at least 30 minutes but no more than 3 hours.

Pour the cream and confectioners' sugar into a cold mixing bowl and beat with a hand mixer until it until soft peaks form.

While the biscuits are still warm, split them in half.  For each serving, set the bottom half of a biscuit on a plate. Scoop some of the berries and their juices over the biscuit, add a generous dollop of whipped cream and cover with the top half of the biscuit.  Serve and enjoy.  

Makes about 20 biscuits

Adapted from Fine Cooking 58 , pp. 50 June 1, 2003

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


These are tasty and easy margaritas - they almost taste too good!  


Fill a blender with a good handful of ice.  Add in half a bottle of a 12oz. beer, half a can of limeade and as much (or as little) tequila as you like.  Blend.  Serve immediately with lime wedges and salt, if desired.

Serves 4.



5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons chile powder
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced

Chopped onion and cilantro
lime wedge

Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for several hours or up to 1 day.

Heat the oil in a roasting pan (or dutch oven) set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around.

Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 23rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powder, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.

Braise in the oven uncovered for about 3 hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.

Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces.

Pour out the oil from the pan and wipe clean.  Return the pork pieces back to the pan and cook on the stove top until crispy and crackly.

Serve in warm tortillas and top with your choice of toppings.

Serves Eight

Adapted from The Sweet Life by David Lebovitz

Black Beans and Garlic Rice

You can certainly use black beans from a can but they are really easy to make.  We make a batch every week - they are great for quesadillas or for an extra for L & M.  

The garlic rice is a treat in our house (we usually eat short grain brown rice) but it is the best white rice you'll ever eat.  It comes to our house from some long time friends from Brazil.

Black Beans:

1 Cup dried black beans
4 Cups water
olive oil

Look over the black beans and pick out any that are broken.  Add the beans and water to a 2 quart pot. Sprinkle with some salt (less is more - you can always add more at the end) and a little olive oil.  Bring the beans to boil and boil for about 4 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low (the beans should be just barely simmering) and cook for about 2 hours or until beans are soft and cooked all the way through.

Makes about 2 12 cups.

Garlic Rice:

1 Cup white Jasmine rice
4 large garlic cloves
olive oil

Smash and peel the garlic cloves.  Put them in a mortar and pestle and add a generous helping of salt (about 2 teaspoons).  Mash the garlic until it forms a paste (the salt makes it easier to mash so add more salt as needed).  (If you don't have a mortar and pestle you can sprinkle the salt directly onto the garlic and mash with the back of a knife.  Coat the bottom of a saucepan with a little olive oil.   Heat the oil over medium high heat until hot.  Add the garlic paste and stir for a few seconds.  Add the rice and mix until the rice is coated with the oil and garlic.  Add really hot tap water to the rice.  Fill the pan until the hot water is about 1 inch above the rice.  Boil for a minute or two and then turn the heat down to the lowest setting.  Cover and cook until the rice is tender - about 20 minutes.  Don't worry if the rice gets brown on the bottom - this is the best part.

Makes about 3 cups.

Menu: Cinco de Mayo 2013