Culinary Chronicles by Chef Steven Winka

As we all adjust to our new COVID-19 reality, there’s one thing that will continue to shine through…our need for comfort during such uncertain times. Whether you are food-obsessed, or your relationship to food is sustenance based, there is arguably no more nostalgia-inducing, approachable and downright comforting food than the bowl of soup. Whether it’s the tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch when you were a kid or the bowl of warm chicken noodle soup on a winter day to combat the sniffles as an adult, soup means something different to all of us.

Long gone are the days of simple soups, as consumers broaden their horizons in the world of food, so too must the suppliers. The classics will forever hold a firm place on the shelves of our grocery stores and pantries, but more common these days is the chef-inspired soup with unique ingredients. Below are a few recipes highlighting some new and exciting trends we’ve been tracking in the world of soup.

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Khao Soi with Chicken Meatballs

This traditional Thai coconut curry soup is the perfect blend of savory and spicy. One of the key components is the addition of fish sauce. If you aren’t a fan of the funk that fish sauce can bring to the table, you can replace it with a soy sauce/Worcestershire combination.

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 pound ground chicken
• 2 green onions, finely, chopped, plus more for serving
• 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
• 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
• 1/4 cup cilantro stems
• Black pepper
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 baby bok choy or 1 bunch kale, chopped
• 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
• 2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
• 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or 1T Worcestershire and 2T low sodium soy sauce)
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1/4 cup each fresh cilantro and Thai or regular basil, chopped, plus more for serving
• 8 ounces egg or rice noodles
• Sliced limes and thinly sliced shallots (for serving)
• Chili oil w/ crunchy garlic (for serving)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Add the chicken, green onions, ginger, garlic, cilantro and a pinch of pepper to a bowl. Mix until just combined. Coat your hands with a bit of oil, and roll the meat into tablespoon-size balls (will make 15-20 meatballs).
2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers, add the meatballs and sear until crisp, about 4-5 minutes, turning them 2-3 times. Toss in the bok choy and cook 2 minutes more, until just charred on the edges. Transfer everything to a plate.
3. To the same pot, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and the curry paste. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, and honey. Slide the meatballs and bok choy back into the soup. Simmer over medium heat until the meatballs are cooked through, 5-8 minutes. Stir in the herbs.
4. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
5. Divide the noodles between bowls and ladle soup over. Top as desired with basil/cilantro, scallions, shallots, lime and chili crunch.
**Note** - Don’t miss out on dousing this soup with one of my absolute favorites…chili oil with crunchy garlic, you won’t regret it! You can find it online here

RELATED: Social Distancing Cuisine With Pantry Made Soup Recipes

Mapo Bean Soup

A traditional Sichuanese dish, Mapo Tofu is a staple highlighting the numbing spiciness that defines this regional Chinese cuisine. There a few ingredients here that may be tough to find at your local grocery store (namely the chili paste, Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers), however there are a few options.
Through the wonders of the internet, these uncommon ingredients can be purchase online with ease Chili Paste + Peppercorns and Chili Peppers. However, you can certainly make a few substitutions that yield a similar and delicious final result.

For the chili paste I would suggest gochujang, sambal, harissa or even just sriracha. The peppercorns are a tough substitution because they deliver the staple numbness (or málà), but I would suggest replacing with tellicherry peppercorns or a combination of black pepper and coriander. As far as the chili peppers go, you can replace with either gochugaru or even cayenne (if using cayenne make sure to dial it back at first and adjust accordingly if you think it needs more heat).

INGREDIENTS:
• 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil, divided
• 4 ounces (115g) ground pork or beef
• 1 tablespoon (17g) doubanjiang (Chinese fermented broad bean-chili paste)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons (2g) finely ground dried Chinese chilies
• 3 medium garlic cloves, finely grated or minced (about 2 teaspoons; 10g)
• One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced (about 2 teaspoons; 12g)
• 4 scallions (about 2 ounces; 55g), white and green parts separated and cut into 1-inch pieces
• 3/4 cup (180ml) water
• 2 cups (565g) cooked dry white beans (such as cannellini or Great Northern) with cooking liquid
• 1 teaspoon (2g) Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. In a large saucepan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up meat and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or wok spatula, until meat is cooked through and just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a small bowl or plate and set aside.
2. Lower heat to medium, add remaining 3 tablespoons (45ml) oil to now-empty saucepan or wok, and heat until shimmering. Add doubanjiang and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add ground chilies and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is aromatic and chilies have stained the oil dark red, about 30 seconds. Transfer 2 tablespoons (30ml) chili-oil mixture to a small heatproof ramekin or bowl and set aside.
3. Add garlic, ginger, and scallion or ramp whites and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in water, beans and their cooking liquid, and cooked meat, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a steady but gentle simmer and cook until mixture is thickened slightly and heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add scallion or ramp greens, stir to incorporate, and cook until just softened, about 30 seconds.
4. Divide stew between individual serving bowls, sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppercorns, and serve, passing reserved chili oil for drizzling at the table.

Curried Carrot Soup

This simple, yet distinctive twist on a classic carrot soup could not be any easier to pull together. It works great as a weeknight meal and can serve as a blank canvas for a variety of toppings. I personally like the addition of toasted pumpkin seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice mixed in with the yogurt.

INGREDIENTS:
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 3 cups roughly chopped carrots
• 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
• 2 teaspoon good-quality, fresh curry powder
• 1.5 cups milk (or cream, for a very rich taste)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Yogurt (for serving)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until foam subsides. Add onions and sauté until transparent, 5-8 minutes. Don't let them brown.
2. Add carrots and stir well to coat with butter, and cook until almost soft, 10-12 minutes more. Sprinkle curry powder over vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until spices are very fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add stock and bring to a boil, then simmer until carrots are completely soft. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend, in batches if necessary, until completely pureed.
4. Return to saucepan and whisk in milk. Return to a simmer and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide amongst bowls and top with yogurt. Soup can be served hot or cold.

Masa Ball Soup

 

This twist/word play on the classic Ashkenazi Jewish - Matzo Ball Soup, simply replaces the matzo meal with masa harina yielding a wonderfully hearty Mexican dish. This unlikely combination of cuisines highlights the endless possibilities of terrible puns becoming delicious dishes.

INGREDIENTS:
• 4 large eggs, beaten
• 1/4 cup seltzer or water
• 1/4 cup lard, schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or neutral oil like vegetable or canola oil (see note)
• 1 cup masa harina
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 3 quarts homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
• 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 1 rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 3/4 cup 1/4-inch diced butternut squash
• 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems (for serving)
• 1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper, thinly sliced (for serving)
• 1 lime cut into wedges (for serving)

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs with seltzer and schmaltz or oil. In a small bowl, stir together masa harina with baking powder, salt, and pepper. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, divide stock evenly between two pots, season both to taste with salt, and bring to a simmer. Add diced carrots, celery, and squash to one pot and simmer until just tender. Set aside.
3. Using wet hands, and re-wetting hands as necessary, form masa mixture into 1- to 1 1/2-inch balls, and add to simmering pot of stock that doesn't have the vegetables (the mixture may feel a little soft, but should form balls easily enough). When all masa balls are added, cover and simmer until cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes. Cooked masa balls can be kept warm in their broth until ready to serve.
4. Reheat both the vegetable pot and the masa-ball pot. Using a slotted spoon, transfer masa balls to serving bowls (you should have at least 3 per bowl); strain masa ball cooking broth with a fine mesh strainer into the pot with the remaining broth and vegetables. Ladle hot broth with vegetables into each bowl and garnish with cilantro and jalapeño or Serrano peppers. Serve with lime wedges.

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