Papa’s Fine Soup II

The first dish I created on my own—rather than following a recipe—was a soup that Miriam called “Papa’s Fine Soup.” Some powdered lemon grass, chicken, snow peas, green onion, and udon noodles. While this soup has changed over time, it has been a comfort food in our house for almost 30 years.

I have posted a variation of the dish, but I never posted the original recipe—I will add it to the bottom of this post. I would boil the dried udon noodles separately until they were not quite done and then put all of the ingredients into a pot to simmer. Today, I thought I would try to make it with some of the cooking tricks that I have learned over the last few years to boost the flavor.

Note: My preferred noodle for this dish is Inaka Udon. These are thick wheat noodles that plump up to about ⅜ of an inch thick when they are cooked. While you could make do with any pasta—in a pinch—these noodles are a key ingredient in this dish.

When I first started making this dish, fresh lemongrass was hard to find. I used the powdered form, which I simply left in the soup. While fresh is always better, Lemongrass is a bit too tough to chew. When I make this soup with fresh lemongrass, I simmer it in the broth and then strain it out. This is a bit fussy, but the improved flavor is worth the hassle.

Originally, I would fry the chicken breasts and then cut them into thin slices. This often produced tough, chewy pieces of meat. My problem was, “How to you get the enhanced flavor of a good fond without overcooking the chicken?” My solution was to cut the raw chicken fine strips. I then partly cooked them in the soup pot. Removing the par-cooked chicken, I then continued to cook the released chicken juices until they had formed a nice fond—both tender chicken and good flavor.

To further enhance the flavor of the chicken pieces, I decided to marinate the par-cooked chicken. I used to just dump everything into the pot at once—which dispersed and diluted the flavors throughout the pot. I decided to concentrate some of the flavors into the chicken pieces by giving them a quick marinate in the some of the spices and liquid ingredients.

Papa’s Fine Soup II

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
¼ tsp. Kosher salt

2 stalks lemon grass
5 green onion, separate uses
½ lb. baby bok choi, separate uses

1+ pkg. Inaka Udon noodles

1 tsp. peanut oil
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
5 cloves garlic, sliced finely
1 Tbs. ginger, cut into thick coins

Chicken marinade

1 Tbs. Shaoxing (optional)
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
¼ tsp. white pepper
⅓ tsp. ginger, powdered

Directions

1. Cut the chicken breasts into small slices and put them into a small bowl.

Tip: Whenever I am making a dish—with a lot of chopped ingredients that I do not want to add to the pot at the same time—I use a set of plastic cereal bowls to keep them separate and ready to hand. For smaller ingredients—like spices, chopped ginger, or garlic—I use small custard cups.

Note: If you prefer dark meat you may use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

2. Toss the chicken with the salt.

Tip: Set the bowl aside, while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Remove the tough outer leaves of the lemon grass.

Note: The outer leaves of the lemongrass frequently have mold on them. You want to wash off, or cut off, any of the mold that remains.

4. Slice the lemongrass into ⅛–¼ inch pieces, put them in a bowl and set them aside.

5. Cut the green onions into 1 inch pieces and set them aside, white parts and green parts separate.

Tip: The green parts are added at the last minute, so that they do not overcook.

6. Cut the bok choi into pieces and set them aside, thick parts and leafy parts separate.

Note: I cut off the outer stalk/leaves and cut off the leafy part. If the stalk is long I cut it in half. When I come down to the inner core and leaves, I slice it—vertically—into three slices (two cuts). This produces an attractive flowerlike piece that is good for a final garnish.

7. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.

8. When the water comes to a boil, add the udon and reduce the heat to medium.

Note: Figure ⅓-½ of a bundle/package of udon per person.

9. Simmer the noodles until they are almost done, about 8-10 minutes.

Tip: Boil noodles until almost cooked through—noodles will still show a tiny white spot in the center when cut.

10. Drain the noodles and submerge them in cool water.

Tip: This keeps them from forming one large clump.

11. While the noodles are boiling, heat the peanut oil in a large soup pot.

12. Add the chicken and sauté the pieces for 3-4 minutes.

Tip: The point here is not to brown or cook the chicken all the way through. You are simply trying to get the chicken pieces to release some of their juices.

13. Remove the chicken pieces to a bowl.

Tip: You may reuse the original chicken bowl, because after a short marinade the chicken will be cooked again.

14. Let the chicken juices in the pot brown to a fond.

15. Deglaze the pot with the chicken broth.

16. Add the garlic, ginger coins, and the lemon grass.

17. Simmer the broth for 20 minutes.

18. Stir the marinade—the Shaoxing, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, and powdered ginger—into the bowl of chicken.

Tip: Let the chicken marinate until the broth is done.

19. Strain out the solids out of the broth and discard.

Tip: You may fish the ginger coins out of the debris and return them to the pot.

20. Add chicken with the marinade, the white parts of green onion, and thicker parts of bok choi.

21. Simmer the soup for 2-3 minutes.

22. Add the noodles, green onion and leaves of bok choi.

*****************************

Papa’s Fine Soup, Original Recipe

Ingredients

1+ pkg. Inaka Udon noodles

2 chicken breasts
1 tsp. peanut oil

32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbs. ginger, cut into thick coins
5 cloves garlic, sliced finely
2 tsp. Lemongrass powder
1 Tbs. Shaoxing (optional)
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
¼ tsp. white pepper
5 green onion, cut into 1 inch pieces, separate uses
½ lb. Chinese pea pods

Directions

1. Boil noodles until almost cooked through—noodles will still show a tiny white spot in the center when cut.

2. Drain and rinse the noodles to stop them from continuing to cook.

3. Add the oil to a soup pot and brown the whole chicken breasts on both sides.

4. Remove the chicken breasts and set them aside to cool.

5. Use a splash of the broth or Shaoxing to deglaze the pot.

Tip: If you do not have Shaoxing you may substitute a dry sherry.

6. Stir in the chicken broth, white parts of the green onion, ginger, lemon grass power, wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper.

7. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

8. When the chicken has cooled, slice the breasts into ¼ inch slices.

Tip: The thickest part of breast may still be a little bit under-cooked.

9. Add the chicken, noodles, the green parts of the onions, and the pea pods to the pot.

Note: I usually use the flat Chinese pea pods, but you may also use the thicker sugar snap peas.  If you want to add even more vegetables, you may include bean sprouts, bok choi, and/or pea tops/sprouts.

10.Simmer the soup until the chicken, noodles, and vegetables are fully cooked, about another 2-3 minutes.

11. Serve hot.

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Filed under California Fusion, Chicken, Main Dishes, Poultry, Soups

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