rainy days and mondays always get me down (and hungry for soup)

Last weekend I picked up some lovely crimini mushrooms at the farmer’s market.  I’m not gonna lie– mushrooms are not always my favorite, but crimini mushrooms I get really excited about.  I first used them years ago in a roasted vegetable/smoked mozzarella/pasta dish I saw on Everyday Italian and instantly fell in love.  They are woodsy and meaty and just generally awesome so when I saw them at the market I bought them without knowing what I was going to use them for.  Some of the best meals start this way!

The last few days have been quite chilly and grey and rainy in these parts… it is spring after all.  And with the chill and the grey and the rain I wanted one thing: hot and hardy soup.  Combine the idea of soup and my farmer’s market find with a little Googling and you have Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Pancetta… unless you’re me and want to use up ingredients you have on hand and then you have Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon.  Don’t be afraid to improvise on recipes.  I used to but with cooking, that is the beauty.  Improvisation in baking is not always as successful, but that is another story for another time.  Now we eat soup!

Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon (adapted from a recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ¾ cup wild rice (about 5 ounces), rinsed, drained
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken meat
  • ½ cups frozen corn kernels
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream

Bring 2 ½ cups water, rice, and ¼ teaspoon salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender but still firm to bite, 45 to 60 minutes (time will vary depending on variety of rice). Drain; set aside.

Heat heavy large pot over medium heat and add bacon and cook until browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add mushrooms to pot and cook until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Add butter to same pot. Add carrots and celery. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; stir until soft, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir 1 minute. Return mushrooms to pot. Mix in chicken stock and rosemary; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Add rice, bacon, chicken meat, and corn to soup. Simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

pinterest digressions and spicy curry noodle soup

I have a confession to make: I think I have a Pinterest problem.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest it is essentially a virtual cork board.  Remember cork boards?  You probably had one on your wall in middle school with pictures of Salt N’ Pepa, INXS, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air on it.  (Or maybe that was just me…)

Anyhow, I have become almost obsessed with finding cool images of food/signs/flowers/home interiors, etc. on Pinterest and last night found myself up until almost midnight (aka waaaaay past my weeknight bedtime) pinning pretty images to my boards.  (If you’re already on Pinterest or are persuaded to join after reading this and care to follow me, my username is baxterandmain.  Little plug.)

All of this is leading me to a blog-related point or two.  1) I need to step my food photography game up, big time.  2) I need to get a real logo/header because I am tired of the up-close brownie shot.  Real tired of it.  Point 1 can be aided with natural sunlight (which should be more plentiful in Wisconsin in the next month or so, fingers crossed) and more thought put into the mise en scene of my pictures (and maybe a proper camera at a later date.)  As for point 2 I am real lucky to have a talented friend who has volunteered to help in this endeavor which brings me full circle as I have been looking for inspirational images on Pinterest to give to her to create some artwork for this here site.  So there we go.

And now the food!  I made some wonderful sweet potato chicken curry noodle soup to go along with the Thai iced tea for you!

Vegetarians please note that this dish could easily be made with tofu instead of chicken and sub vegetable broth for chicken broth and I bet it’d still be as amazing.

It’s spicy, a little sweet, and incredibly flavorful.  You will love it!  Unless spicy and curry is not your thing.  In that case stay tuned for butternut squash lasagne in my next post!

Spicy Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato (by Mai Pham from Bon Appetit magazine)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass* (from bottom 4 inches of about 3 stalks, tough outer leaves discarded; NOTE: if you can only find dried lemongrass in your grocery store you will only need about 1 tablespoon as it is more potent in dried form)
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste*
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)*
  • 2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk,* divided
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 cups snow peas, trimmed
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled red-skinned sweet potato (yam; from about 1 large)
  • 1 pound dried rice vermicelli noodles or rice stick noodles*
  • 3/4 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 red Thai bird chiles or 2 red jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced with seeds
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add next 4 ingredients; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in curry paste, curry powder, and chili paste. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk (scooped from thick liquid at top of can). Stir until thick and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring broth to boil. Keep warm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Cook snow peas in large pot of boiling salted water until bright green, about 20 seconds. Using strainer, remove peas from pot; rinse under cold water to cool. Place peas in medium bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil. Add sweet potato and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Using strainer, remove sweet potato from pot and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in small bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil and cook noodles until just tender but still firm to bite, about 6 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Bring broth to simmer. Add chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potato; stir to heat through, about 1 minute. Heat noodles in microwave in 30-second intervals to rewarm. Cut noodles with scissors if too long. Divide noodles among bowls. Divide snow peas and hot soup among bowls. Scatter red onion, green onions, cilantro, and chiles over soup. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

roast the new year in

I can’t believe this was ever true about me, but I used to not eat meat if it was still attached to bones.  Seriously.  I ate it only if it didn’t too closely resemble the animal that it once was so my meals consisted of a lot of ground beef, chicken breasts, and deli meats– not super exciting.  Then, on a visit to a friend in Baltimore, I ate the most magnificent roasted chicken still on the bones from a Peruvian restaurant and I was a changed woman.  It was so full of flavor and tender and just plain delicious that I did away with my silly old rule and have not looked back since.

It should also be mentioned that chicken is one of my least favorite meats.  In general I find it to be rather dull and it is often the last thing I will order at a restaurant unless of course it is the restaurant’s specialty.  You don’t go to the Chicken Shack and order fish.  You just don’t.  At any rate I have discovered that roasting a whole chicken is not only easy-as-pie it is also mouth-wateringly delightful when done right.

This recipe is so simple that even the most novice of cooks can get it right.  You just put a whole chicken in a bowl with some sage, lemons, olive oil, salt and pepper, cover it tightly and stick it in the fridge for 24 hours.  (Note: when I made this I did not have 24 hours so I stuck it in the fridge for only 4 hours before roasting and it still tasted great.)

After marinating you throw it in a roasting pan– you can add carrots, celery, and onions if you so desire (I did not), and then roast it in the oven for a little over an hour and voila!  A beautiful roasted bird, bones and all.

Herb-Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Sage (recipe by Eric and Bruce Bromberg, found in House Beautiful magazine)

Serves 4

  • 1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, patted dry with paper towels
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage leaves (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and halved crosswise (for whole chicken only), optional
  • 3 celery stalks, cut crosswise into thirds (for whole chicken only), optional
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks (for whole chicken only), optional

Put the chicken in a large bowl. Add the oil, lemon, and sage; toss well. Cover tightly and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours.

The next day, let the chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 450 degrees.

Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with the seasoning. Remove the lemon slices and sage from the marinade and stuff them inside the chicken cavity. Scatter the carrots, celery, and onion, if using, over the bottom of a roasting pan. Pour just enough water into the pan to cover the bottom. Arrange the chicken, breast-side up, on top of the vegetables, if desired, or place the chicken on a roasting rack over the vegetables.

Transfer the pan to the center oven rack; roast for 20 minutes. Baste with the pan juices, and continue roasting, basting once or twice, for 25 minutes more (if the chicken is not golden-brown all over at this point, continue to cook for 10 more minutes).

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Finish roasting, without basting, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Let the chicken stand for five minutes before carving. Serve with the pan juices and vegetables, if desired.

taking stock

I’d heard that making your own chicken stock was simple and that it tastes infinitely better than the stuff you buy in the stuff you buy in the grocery store but I just thought, who has the time?  Turns out I do.  On Saturday night (don’t get jealous now!) I stayed in and cleaned my apartment from top to bottom and made chicken stock at the same time.

It’s as simple as chopping up a few vegetables and throwing them into a pot with a few herbs, a whole bunch of chicken, and some water.  (I did some recipe research and it seems like most recommend using chicken bones, backs, or thighs so that you are not wasting meat.)  You bring all of that to a boil and then let it simmer for a couple of hours.

My apartment smelled wonderful as I cleaned and the stock was done before I knew it.  Straining was simple and Martha’s suggestion of putting the strained stock into the fridge overnight so that the fat rises to the top and can then be easily scooped off is a great one.  The next morning I skimmed off the fat and froze the stock in 4-cup batches.  It will be great to have on hand for soups and of course for Thanksgiving.  Sayonara to the over-salted boxed kind from the grocery store!   Our relationship was convenient while it lasted, but I’m afraid I won’t be needing your services any longer…

Chicken Stock (adapted slightly from recipe found at www.marthastewart.com)

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 quarts

  • 4 pounds chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion peeled and quartered
  • 5 shallots, peeled
  • 1 large carrot cut into thirds
  • 2 celery stalks cut into thirds
  • 2 large or 4 small leeks cut in half lengthwise and well washed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 whole black peppercorns

Place all the ingredients into an 8-quart stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

As the stock approaches a boil, remove any impurities that rise to the top by skimming with a ladle. Reduce the heat and simmer the stock for 3 to 4 hours, continuing to skim impurities from time to time while the stock cooks. Taste after 3 hours for the strength of stock you want.

Remove from the heat and let the stock sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then ladle through a fine strainer. Once strained, remove the fat from the stock by skimming with a ladle (see Helpful Hint). Cool by placing the container of strained stock in an ice water bath, then refrigerate. The stock will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator, or freeze in 1-cup batches.

Cook’s Note: Another way to defat the stock is to place the cooled stock in the refrigerator overnight. The fat will set on the top and can be easily spooned off.

Variation: Use a large (5- to 6-pound) roasting chicken in place of the bones.  Use the meat for chicken salad or croquettes.

chicken curry

I’m a big fan of one-pot meals.  In the colder months I use my Crock-Pot like it’s going out of style: I make stews, roasts, you name it.  I also love Indian food for probably this very reason: much of it involves simmering a bunch of ingredients in one pot to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

This curry starts out with onions.

Then you add ginger, garlic, cinnamon, curry powder, cumin, yogurt, flour, tomato paste…

…chicken stock, applesauce (yep, applesauce!)…

…chicken, peas, and finally sour cream, and coconut milk along with salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe intimidated me at first because of the amount of ingredients (or as a character on my favorite version of Bravo’s Real Housewives series might say “ingredientses”) but actually  it’s a piece of cake.  It takes a little more prep work than your average recipe but once you get the curry started all you have to do is keep adding stuff to the same pot.  So simple.

This curry is great over rice and lately I’ve been into black rice as I have read that the health benefits are numerous.  It also makes for a beautiful and colorful plate so that’s not too bad either. 

Curried Chicken (adapted slightly from “Bon Appetit Keep it Simple: Easy Techniques for Great Home Cooking”)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • ¼ cup minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 10-oz package frozen peas
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until golden, about 15 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute.  Add curry, cumin and cinnamon sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add flour, then yogurt and tomato paste, whisking until sauce is smooth, about 1 minute.  Add stock and applesauce.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Add chicken and peas to sauce.  Simmer until chicken is almost cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Add sour cream and coconut milk.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Stir until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, about 5 minutes (do not boil).  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to bowl.

Serve with rice.