Soup Series: Vol I

This weekend was unseasonably warm, but today I  feel winter creeping in.  The best thing to warm your bones on a cold day? Soup! I find that people often avoid making soup from scratch. I mean, why would you make your own soup when you can find 100 varieties on the shelf in your local supermarket, put it in the microwave, and voila, soup. I agree, it’s very easy, and when you don’t have that much time to cook you might even convince yourself that “homestyle” canned soup was actually made in someone’s home: it wasn’t. The truth is, unless you make it home, you don’t know what’s in it.

I love cooking with Thai ingredients because each element contains so much flavor that all you have to do is throw them in the pot and let them do their thing. If you’re soup-o-phobic (fear of making your own soup) this is a great place to start, because even if you “mess up” the preparation of this soup  it’s still going to taste fantastic.  Whenever I order Thai Curry from a restaurant I find that it’s so spicy that I can’t even enjoy it. This soup has a spicy broth which is then cooled down with coconut milk and fresh granny smith apple, creating the perfect balance. A lot of supermarkets don’t carry specialty ingredients like Thai chills, so if you can’t find them, don’t bail! Simply replace them with another pepper like jalapeños!. Remember, no recipe is set in stone. My recipe below calls for red curry paste, but it is equally delicious with green curry paste and either can be used.

Red Curry with Shrimp & Apple

Red Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant & Fresh Apple

Thai Red Curry with Eggplant, Shrimp & Fresh Apple

Time: 40 Minutes

Serving Size: 2

Difficulty Level: EASY – don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients!

Equipment:

–       A medium sized pot

–       A cutting board

–       A sharp knife

–       A baking sheet

–       A mixing bowl

Ingredients:

–       1 qt. chicken stock

–       12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

–       1 can coconut milk

–       1 stalk lemon grass, peeled to the third layer, tenderized and cut into 3 pieces*

–       1” piece ginger, peeled and minced

–       1 red bell pepper, medium dice

–       1 eggplant, medium dice

–       2 tbs red curry paste

–       2 thai chilis, thinly sliced (if you can’t find these, substitute 1 small jalapeño)

–       2 tbs canola oil

–       1 tbs thai fish sauce

–       1 lime, cut in half

–       1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

–       1 granny smith apple, julienned or bruniose (small cubes made from cutting the julienne width-wise)

–       3 basil leaves, chiffonade (optional)

–       3 springs cilantro (optional)

–       1 cup uncooked long grain rice (follow directions on box)

–       salt & pepper to taste

Procedure:

Preheat your oven to 350. In your mixing bowl, toss the eggplant with 1 tbs of the canola oil and a dash of salt. Lay the eggplant out in a single layer on your sheet pan and place in the oven until it starts to brown, about 10 minutes.

Make the rice. I like to use Texmati rice, as it only takes 30 minutes to cook start-finish and will be ready when your curry is. To make your rice even more flavorful, I like to add lime zest and a cube of peeled ginger.

*The best way to tenderize the lemon grass is with the flat side of a meat tenderizer. Just smash the lemongrass enough so it starts to release its flavor, but not too much to splinter it. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, take a knife and score the lemongrass every inch, just to pierce the surface. Tenderizing lemongrass helps it more easily release its flavor into the soup. This is important when you’re making a fast soup, as flavors have less time to build.

While the eggplant is in the oven, start the curry base. In a medium sized pot, heat the remaining canola oil. Add the bell pepper and sweat on medium heat until they begin to soften. Add the ginger. Add the curry paste, stirring so it coats the peppers and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Add your chicken stock, lemon grass, Thai chilis, and the cilantro (if you’re using it) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the eggplant and the fish oil. Simmer, covered for 10- 20 minutes to allow flavor to build.

Add the coconut milk, bring to a simmer again and taste, adding more fish sauce if necessary. Squeeze in half of the lime. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. You don’t want to add the shrimp until right before you’re ready to serve the soup. If they overcook they will become rubbery and tough.

To serve, place rice in the bottom of the bowl. With a ladle, spoon eggplant and shrimp into your bowls, then cover with broth. Garnish your curry with a few strips of the basil and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of the julienned or brunoise apple. Finally, squeeze some of the remaining lime over each bowl and enjoy!

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