Category: Main Dish


August 26th: Polynesian Peanut Soup

This soup comes from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup, a cookbook given to us by Aunt Debbie. I almost chose a chilled soup, as she did in July, but I love all things peanut-related and felt this was appropriate, as we live in Polynesia.

Polynesian Peanut Soup

This distinctive rich and creamy soup was inspired by a favorite peanut sauce. A friend shared the recipe with my over lunch on a South Pacific cruise. Just making it conjures up fond memories of a sunny deck, sensuous breezes, and the bright blue sea.

(makes 4 cups, 4 to 6 servings)

  • 1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock, or as needed
  • 3/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter*
  • 1/4 cup mango chutney**
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh jalapeño chili, or to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (green parts only)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • Asian sesame oil, for garnish***

*Buy natural peanut butter with oil on the top; stir in the oil before using. Many processed peanut butters are hydrogenated to prevent separation and have sugars, salt, and stabilizers added.

**Chutney is a mixture of fruit and/or vegetables, often cooked with vinegar, sugar, and spices. Usually made with mango, chutney is found in most supermarkets; look for it shelved with either the condiments or dressings.

***Buy dark, amber-colored Asian sesame oil, made from toasted sesame seeds, rather than light-colored sesame oil, which is extracted from raw sesame seeds and lacks the distinctive strong aroma and nutty flavor. Purchase toasted sesame oil in the Asian section of supermarkets or in Asian markets. After opening, store it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 6 months.

  1. Toast the coconut in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.
  2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and ginger are very tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the onion mixture to a blender. Add the coconut milk, vegetable stock, peanut butter, cutney, and jalapeno; puree until smooth. (It may be necessary to add more vegetable stock if the peanut butter is very thick.)
  4. Transfer the soup to the Dutch oven and stir occasionally over medium heat until heated through. Season to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, toss together the coconut, green onions, and cilantro. Drizzle each serving of soup with sesame oil and top with a mound of the coconut mixture.

Refrigerate this soup and the toasted coconut in separate covered containers for up to 3 days. When reheating the soup, stir in water to thin as desired.

White Chicken Chili!

I’m running off to work, so here is the ingredient list for those who shop ahead of time. I’ll post the instructions tonight.

ETA: The recipe!

My own warning — please use latex or latex alternative disposable gloves when cutting up and handling cut-up chiles! I’ve learned this the hard way when I took out my contact lenses a few hours after cutting up chiles. Soap will NOT remove the capsaicin! Christina gave me the disposable glove trick and I always make sure we’ve got a box in the kitchen. I cut them on a smaller cutting board that isn’t my main one, too. The gloves are helpful for cutting up garlic, as well, as that aroma likes to stick around. Also, Kevin and I have made chili that was way higher than our comfort level on the Scoville scale, simply by being too generous with the jalapeños. If you don’t like spicy, or will be sharing this dish with someone who doesn’t, be careful. I love spicy, but eating that chili caused my one and only case of heartburn, we both had tummy issues as a result, and we had to throw out most of it. 😦

I think they can be added safely to taste once in individual bowls (that’s just my amateur chef opinion, though).

White Chicken Chili

(from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, 2011, p 98-9)

Why This Recipe Works

Chili made with chicken promises a lighter, fresher alternative to the red kind, but most of the time, the resulting chili is bland and watery and the chicken is dry, rather than moist and flavorful. We found not one but three solutions to boring chicken chili. To solve the problem of insufficient chile flavor, we used a trio of fresh chiles: jalapeño, poblano, and New Mexican. To fix the watery sauce, we puréed some of our sautéed aromatics (a mix of chiles, garlic, and onions) and broth with beans to thicken the base. And finally, to avoid floating bits of rubbery chicken, we browned, poached, and shredded bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, which gave our chicken pieces a tender texture and full flavor.

Test Kitchen Tip No. 21: How Hot Is That Chile?

In the test kitchen, we’ve noticed that some jalapeños are searingly hot, while others are mild as bell peppers. We tracked down a number of theories to explain this great variation — and size kept popping up. According to this theory, a small chile will be hotter than a larger one. But when we arranged a tasting of jalapeños of various sizes, there seemed to be no correlation between size and heat. To investigate the matter further, we sent five similarly sized jalapeños to the lab, requesting levels of capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin (the compounds responsible for the majority of the perception of “heat”). Sure enough, some chiles were nearly 10 times hotter than others — even though they all looked alike.

One burning question remained: Are there any visual indicators of pungency? No, says Danise Coon of the Chile Pepper Institute, who explained that capsaicin production is tied to the environment. Chiles grown in sunny, arid weather undergo a lot of stress, and stressed chiles produce more capsaicin than chiles grown in temperate climates. (Hot, dry New Mexico is known for producing very hot chiles.)

Until someone comes up with a procedure for diagnosing stressed-out chiles, then, the only surefire way to judge the heat level of a chile is to taste it. If you want more control over the heat when you’re cooking with chiles, start with an easy-to-measure heat source such as cayenne, red pepper flakes, or chili-garlic paste, then layer on modest amounts of fresh chiles, removing the ribs and seeds if you want less heat.

Serves 6 to 8

Adjust the heat in this dish by adding the minced ribs and seeds from the jalapeños as directed in step 6. If New Mexican chiles cannot be found, add an additional poblano and jalapeño to the chili. Serve this chili with sour cream, tortilla chips, and lime wedges.

3 pounds bone-in split chicken breasts or thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra as needed
3 jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 New Mexico chile peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into large pieces
2 onions, cut into large pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)
.25 cup minced fresh cilantro
4 scallions, sliced thin

1. Season chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and .25 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños, then mince jalapeños and set aside. Process half of poblano chiles, New Mexican chiles, and onions in food processor until consistency of chunky salsa, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, New Mexican chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor).

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and .25 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees [F] (175 degrees [F] if using thighs), 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds, and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-size pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

I made this yesterday. Wow – was it good! Definitely 5 Spoons!

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 (15-ounce) cans white or yellow hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
  • 3 onions, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 4-lb boneless pork butt roast, trimmed, cut into 1½-inch pieces (often labeled as boneless Boston butt)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Directions:
1. Puree 1 can hominy and 2 cups broth in a blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
2. Microwave onions, tomato paste, 3 tablespoons oil, garlic, chili powder, and oregano together on high power, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
3. Stir remaining 2 cans hominy, remaining cup broth, tomatoes with juice, and soy sauce into slow cooker. Season pork with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Toss carrots with remaining tablespoon oil, season with salt and pepper, and wrap in an aluminum foil packet. Lay foil packet on top of stew. Cover and cook until the pork is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.
4. Transfer foil packet to plate. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon. Carefully open foil packet (watch for steam) and stir carrots with accumulated juice into stew. Let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) Stir in cilantro and lime juice, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

You may want to serve with lime wedges, minced fresh cilantro, minced onion or scallions, diced avocado, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, rice, and/or warmed tortillas.

Evaluation:  In step 1, I pureed the chicken broth and canned hominy together. It was easy to do and resulted in a nice, thick, and flavorful base for the stew. I wish I could have found Juanita’s hominy at our store. It is a brand of Mexican-style hominy said to be lower in carbohydrates and especially delicious. I will be looking for it in the future and plan to buy a few cans to keep on hand.

For the next step I used a bag of frozen onions instead of chopping fresh ones myself. I concluded that one bag was equal to 3 medium onions. Using the frozen onions was easy, and I was perfectly happy with the results. Cooking these ingredients together in the microwave instead of sautéing them on the stove is a great technique.

For step 3, I added only one can of hominy instead of two in an attempt to cut down on the carb-count, and I used a three-pound roast to save some money, yet I still felt that the resulting stew had a very generous amount of meat. The most difficult part of this recipe for me was cutting the pork up. I always find cutting raw meat to be distasteful. I prepared and enclosed the  carrots in a foil packet as instructed and was very pleased with the outcome. The carrots were cooked perfectly. I will try to remember in the future to use this technique for carrots when using the slow cooker. I wonder if it would be good for other vegetables as well.

Since I wanted the stew to be ready to eat in less time than suggested, I decided to try pre-heating the broth, hominy, and tomatoes in the microwave before putting them into the slow cooker. I set the slow-cooker on high and was pleased to find that the pre-heating did speed things up quite a bit. The stew was ready to eat in just under four hours instead of 5 to 7.

Step 4 – There was not much accumulated fat to be removed, but I did spoon off what I could. The stew’s consistency was fine, so I did not add any broth. I don’t like the flavor of cilantro, so I left that out, but I did add the lime juice at the end. It was fun to squeeze the fresh lime (cost was only 33 cents), and I think it added a nice touch of flavor. I think toppings of diced avocado and sour cream would have been a great way to serve the stew. I’ll try to do that next time.

With its deep and rich combination of flavors, Dandy husband and I both liked this stew very much. It truly was delicious. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

Smoky Shredded Chipotle Beef Filling

Another ATK Slow Cooker recipe –

Ingredients

  • 2 onions , minced
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper , stemmed, seeded, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • boneless beef chuck roast , trimmed and halved
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Microwave onion, chili powder, chipotles, oil, garlic, jalapeno, tomato paste, and cumin in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir tomato sauce, sugar, and liquid smoke into slow cooker.
  3. Season beef with salt and pepper, add to slow cooker, and coat evenly with sauce mixture.
  4. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9-11 hours on LOW or 5-7 hours on HIGH.
  5. Transfer beef to large bowl, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces, discarding excess fat; cover to keep warm.
  6. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon.
  7. Toss shredded beef with 1 cup braising liquid; add more liquid as needed to keep meat moist and flavorful.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Filling can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let filling thaw completely before using.