Do you like to cook? I do, but usually feel like I don't have time to do anything terribly fancy. I have my standard recipes that my family likes and I don't tend to veer too far from them. The exception to that rule is my love for most kinds of Asian food. The down side to living in a more rural area is that there are not as many restaurants - no Indian places, and there is one good Chinese place but it's not all that convenient. So, I'm learning to cook the things I like myself.
One limitation, as I mentioned, is time. The kids all have lots of activities, most of which take place in the late afternoon, so I'm not often home during my normal dinner preparation time.
Enter my trusty crock pot! Todd's parents very kindly gave me a new slow cooker for Christmas, and I love it. I've already used it for salsa chicken and it did a great job. Today, I decided to try a recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution from America's Test Kitchen. My friend Mary recommended this book to me, and I'm trying to add in a recipe from this book now and again.
Tonight's experiment was Thai-Style Chicken Soup. Here is the recipe:
2 onions, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used regular)
2 (14 oz.) cans coconut milk
2 stalks lemon grass, bottom 5 inches only, bruised
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick (I actually had big carrots this time, but normally I would just throw in a handful of baby carrots)
3 Tbsp fish sauce
10 cilantro stems, tied together with twine (had no twine, it wasn't hard to fish them out)
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (I had chicken breasts)
8 oz white mushrooms, trimmed or sliced thin
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice from 2 limes (I had reconstituted)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp Thai red curry paste
Garnishes (I didn't have these, but you might like them, so here you go)
1/2 C fresh cilantro leaves
2 fresh Thai, serrano, or jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced thin
Lime wedges, for serving
1. Microwave onions, garlic, ginger, and oil in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
2. Stir broth, 1 can coconut milk, lemon grass, carrots, 1 Tbsp fish sauce, and cilantro stems into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt & pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.
3. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces. Let soup settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard lemon grass and cilantro stems.
4. Stir in mushrooms, cover, and cook on high until mushrooms are tender, 5 to 15 minutes. Microwave remaining can of coconut milk in bowl until hot, about 3 minutes, then whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and curry paste to dissolve.
5. Stir hot coconut milk mixture and shredded chicken into soup and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with garnishes.
I liked this soup! I am excited to taste it again tomorrow, because soup is always better on the second day, don't you know. It has a nice, fresh coconut flavor, which I appreciated, but I know my husband didn't care for it as much. He's also not a fan of mushrooms, so I made sure I didn't get any in his bowl. The kids all ate it without complaining, so that was good. It didn't seem to be a terribly hearty soup, which makes me wonder if I didn't have quite enough chicken. Also, more carrots would have been fine.
This is not a "throw everything in and walk away" slow cooker recipe. It was great for a lazy Saturday, since we weren't going anywhere and I was home to do the extra steps. This is not one that I will probably do during the week.
It was fun shopping for this recipe. I got to go to the local Asian market, which I love to do. I had never seen lemon grass before, nor had I ever purchased fish sauce. If you've never used fish sauce, and you're considering this recipe, I will warn you that it doesn't smell very nice. Also, the mushrooms took quite a bit longer to soften up - more like 25 minutes. I got pre-sliced ones, so that may have been why. Also, because I didn't use low-sodium chicken broth, I found that I didn't need to add extra salt when I served it.
If you try this, you will have to let me know how you like it!