Monday, January 3, 2011

Thai Coconut Green Curry Soup

New Year’s Eve afternoon lunch

Lunch with good friends was the perfect way to enjoy the last afternoon of the year. Lunches tend to be relaxed affairs, an easy menu without the pressures of a multi-course dinner, so even the cook can relax. Sarah and Gerry had arrived with champagne and apricot nectar, so the relaxation began immediately with a round of Bellinis.

Eventually we got around to lunch and everyone joined in the last-minute kitchen activities of ladling, serving, filling the water glasses, etc. Four hours flew by and the laughter and conversation never slowed. We had a lot to catch up on since we are rarely together in the same state… traveling is both a joy and a problem in retirement. It’s easy to lose touch with people you care about, even in these days of e-mail, texting, Skype, Facebook and Twitter.  Although we hadn’t seen each other in a year and a half, not since our 2009 boat trip in SE Alaska, we talked nonstop, occasionally all at the same time... and still have ideas to explore and stories left to share. 

2010 ended with a memorable cold and awesomely sunny day. The delicious Thai soup provided a comforting antidote to Seattle's cold weather, and the rest of the dishes offered a variety of nibbling choices. Whenever we eat this fragrant, tasty soup again I know I will think of this visit with our Montana friends. 

The lunch menu: 
Homemade dishes included
       Thai coconut green curry chicken soup
       Fragrant rice a la Tom Douglas
       Thai summer rolls with shrimp
       Japanese pickled cabbage and sunomono
Purchased items from Uwajimaya
       pickled ginger
       chopped octopus salad
       pickled octopus shreds
Dessert was decidedly non-Asian with fresh pineapple rounds sprinkled with brown sugar and broiled, then topped with whipped mascarpone. 

Thai Coconut Green Curry Chicken Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup dried mushrooms, soaked and drained; liquid saved
1 tablespoon oil
1 stalk lemongrass, white part sliced lengthwise, smashed, cut in 1" pieces
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chunked      
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
6 kaffir lime leaves
6 boxes chicken stock, low sodium
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon Thai green curry sauce from a jar (use more to taste)
2 cans coconut milk (NOT the sweetened variety)
3 chicken breasts, shredded or cubed into spoon-sized pieces
1/2 cup peapods (optional)
1/2 cup carrots, shredded (optional)
Toppings: sliced green onions, shreds of basil and/or mint

Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes, or until the ‘shrooms rehydrate. Drain, but save the soaking water, and cut the larger pieces into bite-sized chunks. Set aside.

In a medium-sized soup pot or dutch oven heat the oil over medium heat. Add the lemongrass and ginger and cook until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.Tear the lime leaves apart and add to the pot, then cook for an additional minute.

Add the chicken stock, fish sauce and ‘shroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook at a simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out the solids. (The lemon grass, ginger, garlic and lime leaves add tremendous flavor, but aren't all that pleasant to munch on.)

Stir in the green curry sauce. (We use a scant teaspoon, but some guests find that too spicy. The jar of curry suggests using 1 to 3 teaspoons, so season more or less to your own heat tolerance.)

Add the coconut milk and stir to blend completely. Add the mushrooms, chicken, peapods and carrots and cook at a simmer until the chicken is no longer pink.

Serve in heated bowls with a small scoop of Fragrant rice. Top with a sprinkling of sliced green onions and shredded Thai basil and/or mint. 

Thai Summer Rolls with Shrimp

These rolls used nearly the same ingredients as the Spring Rolls with Pork. Large shrimp were briefly poached in boiling water flavored with ginger and star anise, then drained and chilled. I split each shrimp lengthwise and used 3 or 4 pieces per roll, along with rice noodles, carrots, cucumbers, julienned Thai basil and mint and a smear of sweet Thai chili sauce.

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