Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cream of Mushroom and Leek Soup

My husband really likes Cream of Mushroom Soup. I think it's ok but it's not my favorite. I usually like to add some oomph to it to make it more interesting. Leeks will give the soup a nice sweetness, so make sure you saute them so they are sufficiently caramelized.

Mushroom soup isn't particularly photogenic


4 T Butter
16 oz Mushrooms, separated into caps and stems, caps sliced
2 medium or 1 giant leek, chopped
1 quart (give or take) Chicken Stock (or other light stock)
8 oz Heavy Cream


Salt and Pepper to taste
Nutmeg (to taste)
1/4 Lemon (for juice)


4T Butter
1/4c + 2T Flour


1. Saute the mushrooms and leeks in the butter for about 15-20 minutes on low until they start to emit an aroma and they are soft and shiny.
2. While the mushrooms and leeks are sauteing, add the mushroom stems to the chicken broth and simmer on medium. If using unseasoned or packaged chicken broth, add some aromatics at this time to boost the flavor.
3. Add the chicken stock to the mushrooms and leeks and simmer for 1 hour.
4. In a separate pan, make the roux using the flour and butter. Bring the soup to a boil then add the roux to the soup.
5. Boil the soup for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick
6. Turn off the heat and add the cream. If the soup is too watery, you can turn the heat up to high and boil it until it is thick enough, just make sure you stir it frequently to prevent the bottom from scalding.
7. Add seasonings and lemon juice.

Cooking Tip

Lemon or Lime Juice is my secret ingredient. The citrus adds a wonderful brightness to dense dishes and often it's not obvious that there was lemon specifically added to the dish. I usually use a little lemon juice in stews and vegetables. Orange juice and zest works great with squash. Lime is especially nice with coconut milk or bean-based soups.

If you're worried about seeds or pulp getting into your food, you can squeeze the lemon or lime through a strainer. I do not recommend pre-squeezed juices, they aren't as good as the real deal and getting it straight from the fruit really isn't hard.

For a great refreshing soda-like beverage, squeeze 1/4 to 1/2 of a lemon into a 16 oz glass and top up with cold seltzer water. You can also add the same amount of juice when you refill your water bottle for the gym or what have you with filtered water. I often put my daily dose of liquid magnesium supplement into this mixture because the lemon covers up the bitterness!

Sunday, January 4, 2015


I think almost every culture has some form of a basic peasant dish that consists of potatoes, onions, eggs, and meat. In Spain you've got the Tortilla, in Italy it's the Frittata, in Ireland it's Colcannon, and in the USA we technically call it a Hash but restaurants have it on the menu as a "Skillet" or "Scramble".

In Germany, this dish is called Bauernfrühstück (bow-urn-frew-shtewck) or "Farmers' Breakfast". I learned about this dish from my German husband, did a little research online and in my German cookbooks, and added my own adjustments based on my own preferences and cooking experience. I've even had it a few times in Germany, but of course we both like mine better than anything we've had in a restaurant ;)


For this recipe, I'm sharing my proportions for 2-3 people. 2 big eaters, 3 light eaters, and if you just added an extra egg, this would work for 4 light eaters without any other adjustments. This isn't the kind of recipe you need to follow exactly, you can easily adjust proportions based on your own preferences and what you have on hand, and the result will be perfectly fine.


2 T butter
1 T lard or bacon dripping
2-3 rashers of uncooked thick cut bacon, chopped (see substitution note)
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 potato, quartered and sliced (thinner cooks faster), raw or cooked
1/4-1/2 cup chopped ham (see ingredient note below)
3 eggs
Paprika, 1-2T or less if you don't like paprika that much
Parsley leaves, chopped, 4-5 leaves
Chives or the green part of scallions, chopped, about 1/2 T
1/4 mild flavored cheese (like Edam), shredded (optional), because I'm American I like cheese on everything, but this is definitely NOT a traditional German ingredient!
Sour cream or Creme Fraiche for serving (optional)

Substitution Note: If you don't have bacon on hand, increase the lard or bacon dripping to 2T (really it's enough fat in the pan to keep things from sticking, so use your best judgement).

Note about Ham: You can use thin sliced deli ham for this, but if you do, you'll want to have some nice thick cut bacon as well or else it won't have a good depth of flavor. If you use thin cut ham, about 1/4 cup along with the chopped bacon should suffice. If you don't have bacon, this is a great way to use leftover ham from a big ham roast. The ham roast will have a nice depth of flavor that holds up well such that you don't need to also add bacon. Again, use your judgement and experiment according to what you have on hand. This is peasant food after all :)


1. Saute potato, onion, and bacon if using over medium-low heat in the fats and add 1T of paprika plus some salt and pepper. If you are using ham from a roasted ham, add that now. Saute until the potatoes are soft. I recommend using a cast iron skillet and covering the skillet if the potato slices are on the thicker side. This will take around 10-15 minutes. Check the potato slices for doneness, they should be soft. If you are using cooked potato, saute until heated through, this should only take about 5 minutes.

2. Beat the eggs with 1T paprika, salt, pepper, chives, and parsley. If you are using thin sliced deli ham, add it to the egg mixture. Pour over the potato and onion mixture in the skillet. Cook until the bottom of the eggs look mostly set. You can cover it during this cooking period, I find it helps the eggs to cook more evenly.

3.  Use a spatula to scramble the eggs around a bit and get any stuck bits off the bottom of the skillet. At this point, you can sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the egg and potato mixture. Again, you can cover it or not, your choice really. I find it helps things to cook through a bit faster, but that's me.

Cheese is definitely not part of a traditional German Bauernfrühstück!

4. Once the egg mixture is fully cooked (and cheese melted if you added cheese), turn off the heat and serve it up!

I like mine with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, but it's perfectly acceptable to just eat it plain, or even just sprinkle a bit of parsley over top. If it tastes a little flat, try a few drops of fresh lemon juice.

I make this every weekend, sometimes both Saturday and Sunday, or if I'm working from home and have the time or energy I'll even make it then. It takes about 30 minutes if you're using raw potatoes, but with cooked it takes about 10-15. Years ago in college, I made Spanish tortillas all the time because they were easy, cheap, nutritious and satisfying, and they kept well in the fridge. Bauernfrühstück does not keep quite as well but if you keep it at room temperature and your kitchen isn't too warm, then you can eat it the next morning. Putting it in the fridge will alter the starch in the potatoes, making it less desirable to eat.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thai Curry Un-Recipe

Whenever I order Thai Curry from most restaurants, I'm usually disappointed. It's typically too sweet, not spicy enough, watery, oily, and lacking in flavor. I've never been to Thailand and experienced the real deal, but I do believe it's possible to make something more satisfying in ones own kitchen.

You really don't need any special exotic ingredients to make the basic recipe and you can even get decent curry paste online. This is a very quick dish assuming you have the stock already made. I have used boxed chicken broth in a time crunch and it has worked just fine.

Quick disclaimer: My style of cooking is to casually follow a sort of outline of ingredients and instructions, improvising depending on my own preferences and what I have on hand. Hence the Un-Recipe in the title :)

Homemade Thai Green Fish Curry! It doesn't look like much, but trust me, it's tasty!

About the Ingredients

I'm going to talk a little about some of the key ingredients and then provide a recipe and instructions for how to make the curry.

Curry Paste

I highly recommend making your own curry paste if you have access to the raw ingredients. If you can't find things at Asian markets or grocery stores like Whole Foods, you can usually find them online. The flavor of your own curry paste will always be better and fresher than any curry paste you purchase pre-made. The other advantage of making your own is you can manage the spice level yourself. For instance, my husband hates spicy, so if I make curry using the ready made curry paste, he can't eat it. I've tried a few different recipes throughout the web and this one is my favorite. Note that Galangal is a type of ginger and if you can't find it you can try to substitute young ginger if you can find it. Galangal has a very floral sort of taste to it and is milder than ginger. You can try using reconstituted dried galangal if you can find it online.

If you don't have access to the raw ingredients, or are just lazy (like me sometimes) the best ready made curry paste is Mae Ploy. I've seen this brand used in Thai restaurants in Seattle (that I actually liked their curry), so if you want to reproduce that kind of flavor without making your own paste, then this is the brand to use. I personally prefer the Green Curry Paste, but the Panang comes up close second. I have tried the Red and I'm not a huge fan, but it's not awful. Just not my favorite. The other reason I recommend Mae Ploy is that there are no additives. The items on the list are exactly what you would put into it if you were making it yourself, there's no special preservatives or anything like that.

My advice is to use Green curry for poultry and fish and to use Panang curry with red meat.

Coconut Milk

Most coconut milk is canned and has added preservatives and stabilizers. Making your own coconut milk is the most economical and of course produces the best quality result, however it's pretty labor intensive. And given that the stuff doesn't really preserve well, you'd be stuck doing it each time you want to make curry. I mean if that's your thing, and some days, it's totally mine, then go for it. You can even make coconut flour with the leftover desiccated coconut! It's definitely the way to go if you have the time and want to save money.

That being said, it's tough to find additive free coconut milk. Fortunately I have found it online! I buy the Arroy-D in the 8 oz size and find one or two is enough for most of the recipes I make. I normally get the 6-pack but I just noticed they have 12-packs now! Sweet!

Once opened, it does not freeze well and will go sour within a day or two (just like real coconut milk.. cuz this is.. real coconut milk). If you don't want to use a whole carton, you can always give any leftovers to your dog, they love that stuff!

Kaffir Lime Leaves

These are strictly optional, you can use lime zest if you don't have them, but the flavor will be slightly different. If you do find them in a grocery store (again, sometimes places like Whole Foods have them if your Asian grocery store doesn't), you *can* freeze them. I usually buy a bunch and store them in the freezer since they aren't delicate and don't take up much space.

Fish Sauce

I use the Red Boat brand because it's very high quality and doesn't contain anything beyond salt and rotten anchovies. I use Fish Sauce to make my own HFCS-free Worcestershire sauce and often throw it into stews for a little Umami. Trust me, get this stuff, you will end up using it for all kinds of things.


When sweetening your curry, Sucanat is the best thing to use, but you can use brown or turbinado sugar if that's what you have. Thai cooking traditionally uses palm sugar or Jaggery (a blend of palm sugar and cane sugar) or coconut sugar (not very environmentally sustainable). I used to use coconut sugar a lot and it worked really well with the Thai curry but after reading about how it's being harvested and how it destroys coconut crops, I decided not to use it. Sucanat is the most minimally processed sugar you can buy, it's literally just evaporated cane juice with all of the molasses and minerals intact. The point is, you want to use sugar that has a molasses flavor to really give the curry a well rounded sweetness.

The Recipe

This is for 1 quart of stock, which ultimately makes 6 1-cup servings of the curry.

2 T butter, ghee, coconut oil, or other saturated fat

About 3 cups of chopped vegetables, whatever you have on hand, be creative!
The photos here used: 1 medium sized potato, 1 very large carrot, 1/2 onion, 4 oz green beans
You can also use zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, bamboo shoots, sweet potatoes, just think about what's typically in Thai Restaurant menus for ideas.

About 2 cups of chopped meat, raw or cooked

1-2 T curry paste (depends on how strong you want it)

2-4 cups of homemade stock, this can be chicken, fish, duck, whatever. Chicken is the most universal and goes with the largest variety of meats. In this case I used fish stock because I had baked a whole fish, made stock from the leftover bones, and had a bunch of fish meat leftover. Again, use what you have on hand and be creative. If you plan to thicken the stock, then use more stock, otherwise use less.

12-16 oz of coconut milk, add this to taste. I often use a lot of coconut milk, but you can use less depending on your preference and how thick you want your curry.

Salt, to taste
Fish Sauce, to taste
Sucanat, to taste
2-4 Kaffir Lime Leaves, optional

1/2 of a Lime (for juice)

Optional: 1-2 T flour or 1/2-1 T rice flour for thickening Traditionally you don't thicken Thai curry, but if you want to you can. I personally like it thicker so I make a roux. It's kind of fun because then your curry almost looks like Japanese curry before you add the coconut milk. Use rice flour if you aren't a fan of wheat, I recommend sprouted brown rice flour if you can find it, it's not quite as grainy and has enough protein in it to brown like wheat flour.


1. Sautee the long cooking vegetables (things like potatoes, eggplant, carrots) in the fat over medium heat until they are glistening (5-10 minutes). If you are using a slower cooking raw meat, then add it now (chicken, beef, duck, etc).

2. If thickening add the flour and stir until the flour has absorbed enough fat that it won't clump (about 2 minutes)

3. Add the curry paste and make sure the vegetables are well coated.

After sauteing onion, potato, and carrot in butter, add some curry paste

4. Add the stock and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. You can either simmer on high to reduce the stock to make it thicker, or boil the stock for 5 minutes until thick from the added thickener and then turn down the heat.

The fish stock came straight from the fridge so it was very gelatinous!

5. While the stock is simmering, add the kaffir lime leaves, Fish Sauce, and Sucanat. You can add more later so be conservative, this is just to get some flavor cooked into the vegetables.

6. Once the curry has reached the desired thickness, add coconut milk and adjust the seasoning by adding salt, fish sauce, and/or sugar. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

I use Arroy-D 100% coconut milk with no additives

7. Add the quick cooking vegetables and the chopped meat (if cooked or quick cooking like fish).

Adding the chopped up cooked fish and the frozen green beans

8. Squeeze the juice out of the lime half, and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve over rice, rice noodles, or just eat it like soup!

Cooking Notes

I learned an interesting technique for chopping carrots from a Japanese cookbook. This technique has you create sort of rounded wedges as you chop the carrot. I use this method when chopping carrots for stews because I find the soup clings to the carrot and it is much more enjoyable to eat in this shape.

To cut a carrot in this manner, you just cut a wedge off the end as you roll the carrot.

Chopping a carrot, Japanese style