Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dinner - Thai-Style Chicken Soup

Last night, I tried out a new recipe, Thai-Style Chicken Soup, from a Cook's Illustrated (Jan/Feb 2007) issue. Usually, we love the CI recipes. They are very well written and the outcome is always delicious. Well, I was a little disappointed in this one.

Sure, this recipe called for lots of yummy coconut milk, cilantro, and lime juice - all things I love - but it was lacking some serious flavor. To make this soup accessible for the home cook, CI tested for the best substitutions for traditional Thai ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves, bird's eye chilies, galangal, and lemon grass. The recipe does include the lemon grass (3 stalks), but eliminates all the others with store-bought red curry paste. I bought the only red curry paste my grocery had, A Taste of Thai. Steve and I have tried the Taste of Thai green curry paste, only to add the entire jar because the directed amount to use was only a whisper of that green curry flavor.

With that in mind, I should have known that the called for two teaspoons of red curry paste would not be enough to satisfy our palates. But I like to prepare a first time recipe exactly as directed and then determine how I would change it to make it better.

So our soup wasn't spicy or flavorful enough. After we ate, we added a bunch more paste and brought it back up to a simmer. Will see how that changed the flavor when I have some for lunch today.

The other thing I didn't like about the recipe is that it has you strain out all the aromatic solids after simmering for 10 minutes. That's the shallots, cilantro, and lemon grass. The only "chunks" in the soup are mushrooms (which you know I don't like) and chicken. I would add some thinly sliced bamboo shoots and red peppers next time. I might also add some sliced ginger to the aromatics.

CI said to serve the soup as just soup, or to pour it over rice. We opted for the rice, which promptly soaked up a majority of the liquid.

I will say this about this recipe - it was one of the easiest and least time consuming ones I've made from Cook's. I think the prep work took more time than the cooking.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars
Needs additions and some tweaking to be the rich, flavorful, satisfying soup that we want it to be. I love lime and this calls for lots of lime, so that is one flavor that came shining through.

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