The latest addition to my kitchen is this lovely bright orange 6.75-qt. Dutch (French) oven from Le Creuset. Le Creuset is a sponsor of my cooking show, Four Senses, and after being surrounded by their pretty cookware on set during season 2 production, I wanted a piece for myself.
Our deep-fried turkey before it became a bare carcass.
Your crazy family came and went. Now all that’s left is a big ol’ turkey carcass. Wait, don’t throw anything away just yet. In this time and age when offal eating has become the trend, I’m going to show you what you can do with all those leftover turkey bones.
First, you make turkey stock. Duh! Then, you use that stock to make turkey congee.
Every Asian country has its own version of rice porridge. It’s the ultimate Asian comfort food. Think of the Americans with their chicken noodle soup. Well, the Asians have their rice porridge. It’s what you feed someone under the weather. I admit I used to hate congee or chao (as it’s called in Vietnamese) because it was all my mama let me eat when I was sick. Incidentally, I grew to associate congee only with illness. Of course it left a negative impression on me. But now that I’ve got no mama to cook me homemade congee, I had to roll up my sleeves and do it myself. Now I don’t necessarily eat congee just when I’m sick; I’ll eat it when it’s cold out. (Speaking of which, Houston is finally starting to feel like winter. Yippee!) I eat it because it’s hearty, warm, and best of all, simple to make. I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make congee, but even if I don’t, the great thing about congee is its versatility. You can just about throw anything into it. Perhaps the only requirement is stock or broth and rice. (I’ve even seen some people cook congee with plain water but I don’t recommend this—too plain.)
So read on, and learn how to make turkey stock with that leftover carcass and then, subsequently, turkey congee. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Happy winter eating!
The second course of the Italian birthday dinner was this Tuscan potato soup which is very similar to Olive Garden‘s bottomless potato soup. I found the copycat recipe online years ago and have been making it since. It’s a little spicy (which you don’t expect), and the blend of vegetables, meat, and the creamyb chicken broth all make for a flavorful soup. Because it’s not too thick, it’s not super filling, and thus makes a proper second course for a four-course meal. But because it’s creamy, it’s still hearty enough to please the palate.
The kale adds a little texture and color to the soup but my husband had picked out the wrong kale at the grocery store–I needed the curly, leafy kind but he chose one that tasted like straight-up grass and dirt. Who knew there was more than one kind of kale? So sorry, but this phohto doesn’t have the green kale. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.
Recipe: Tuscan Potato Soup
Summary: A knock-off of Olive Garden’s soup
3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
9 c. water
3 to 5 slices bacon, chopped
1 lb. Italian sausage, loosely grounded
4 lg. red potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 lg. white onion, finely chopped
3 to 5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2/3 c. half-and-half
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 c. chopped kale leaves
In a lg. stockpot, combine water, chicken broth, salt, and potatoes. Set to a low boil.
In a separate pan, fry up bacon until slightly crispy. Set bacon aside, saving the grease in the pan.
In the same pan used to cook the bacon, add the Italian sausage, onion, and olive oil. Simmer on low until sausage is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
Add bacon and sausage mixture into the soup pot. Mix the garlic, cayenne pepper, and half-and-half into the soup pot. Cover and simmer on low for 30 min.
Five min. before serving, stir in the chopped kale leaves.
I used turkey bacon and Italian turkey sausage for a slightly healthier option. (And also because my husband doesn’t eat pork.)
We recently hosted another birthday dinner at our house. This time, the guests of honor were another two friends from our wedding party: Karen and Daniel, both October babies. Daniel requested comfort food, and Karen toasted to that. October is also a good time to start cooking up that comfort food–as I mentioned in my previous broccoli cheddar soup post, we start craving comfort foods as the weather cools.
I never truly enjoyed clam chowder until seven years ago during a trip to San Francisco. Being that it was my first time to the Bay area, I had to do all the touristy things, including a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf where I ordered the notorious Boudin clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. I sat on a bench at the Wharf on a chilly November afternoon and enjoyed my little precious bowl of touristy goodness. (I don’t particularly like sourdough, however, because it has that fermented taste that errs it on the side of almost rotten, but how could I not possess the “when in Rome” attitude? I’m such a poser.) Now I need to make a trip to New England and try some of their clam chowder, and I’ll have to do it in a Patriots jersey.
Anyway, here is the way to recapture that moment, the first of what was again a three course meal. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, you can definitely cook it.
Place in a large pot, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until crisp and browned, about 10 min. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot. Set bacon aside.
Stir the potatoes, celery, and carrots into the bacon fat. Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 5 min., stirring frequently.
Pour the juice from the clams into the pot. Add just enough water to cover ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for another 10 to 15 min., or until potatoes are just tender.
Gently stir in the leek soup mix until no lumps remain. Stir in the clams, reserved bacon, and half & half cream. Cook and stir until chowder returns to a simmer and thickens, about 10 min. more.
If the soup is still too runny, try running some of the potatoes a batch at a time through a blender or food processor. This mashes up the potatoes into a creamy texture. Add the potatoes back into the soup, and it should thicken. We had to do this to fix our runny soup problem.
Because I could not find dry leek soup mixanywhere, I tried to come up with my own concoction: some chopped scallion, cream of celery, some minced onion, chicken bouillonn, etc. Or you can substitute with onion soup mix (although I couldn’t find this either). C’mon, people! I tried the Heights Kroger, two HEBs, and even Central Market. Get with the 21st century, stores.
I think next time, if the stores still refuse to stock leek soup mix, I might try substituting it with condensed cream of potato and cream of celery soups.
Did you know that as the weather cools, our bodies start craving comfort foods? I think there are two reasons for this. First of all, cooler weather reminds us of the holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas) where comfort foods are served. Secondly, our bodies experience a physiological change in external temperature, and hearty foods help our bodies warm back up. (Okay, so I pulled this last reason out of my butt, but I’m willing to bet there’s something to it.) So here is the first of many comfort recipes to come.
When I first met my husband and we were just friends (well, I thought we were friends–he was trying to court me), we used to go to Panera Bread together to take advantage of their free wifi and do some work. His absolute favorite thing to order there was the broccoli cheddar soup that comes in the sourdough bread bowl. Even when we weren’t anywhere near a Panera Bread, he would go out of his way to drive there and order it.
This is why I was happy to find the knock-off on the Food Network Magazine online. Now we can control how much salt and butter goes into the soup and, better yet, save a good chunk of change.
It’s a fairly simple recipe. I had John taste the final product, and he approved, saying it was very similar to Panera Bread’s recipe. Sweet! So now if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then gradually whisk in half &half until smooth. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Season with salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook uncovered until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare bread bowls by cutting a circle in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife, leaving a 1″ border all around. Remove bread top and hollow out loaves, leaving a thick bread shell.
Add broccoli florets and carrots to broth mixture and cook until tender, about another 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves and puree broth mixture in food processor or blender until smooth. There will still be chunks of broccoli and carrots. Return soup to saucepan.
Add cheese to soup and whisk over medium heat until melted. If soup is too thick, add up to 3/4 c. water. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper. Serve in bread bowls and garnish with grated cheese.
The original recipe calls for 4 servings, but who can really eat that much cheesy soup? I’d say it can feed 6.
Kim chi chigae is a Korean stew that uses kim chi, a spicy pickled cabbage, as its main ingredient. There are dozens of variations to this stew depending on what other ingredients are used: seafood, tofu, beef, pork, etc. It’s the thing to cook when your kim chi has fermented way past its peak to eat as a condiment. We throw just about anything we find left over in the fridgte into the pot. That’s what so great and versatile about chigae–it’s like the Chinese’s fried rice or the American’s casserole.
Chigae is often cooked in a clay pot which is said to bring out the flavor of the stew. Also, the older (and inevitably more fermented) the kim chi, the better. Fresh kim chi has not ripened enough and will not add as much flavor to the food. While there are innumerable versions of chigae, the recipe I’ve posted here is the kind John typically makes in our house. Some would call it budae chigae, which is a army-based stew so called for its particular ingredients: canned meats, hot dog wieners, ground meats, and so on. Budae chigae’s origins stem from the post-Korean War times when meat was scarce, therefore whatever leftovers from the military were thrown into the stew. It’s simple, but I find it tastier than many of the ones I eat in restaurants. That’s the funny thing about me–I prefer John’s homemade “poor man’s chigae” to any restaurant’s fancy ones. There’s something about slurping spicy hot stew over a bowl of rice within the comforts of your own home, especially during a cold winter’s day, so save this recipe for the upcoming cold months.
I am lucky that my mama-in-law makes the best kim chi, so we always just use hers for the main ingredient. One of these days, I’ll get her to teach me her kim chi-making methods. Till then, we need to get over our language barrier first.
Recipe: Spicy Korean Stew
Summary: Kim chi chigae or budae chigae
2 c. extra fermented kim chi
2 tbsp. dashida
12 oz. medium tofu, diced
1 medium potato, peeled & diced
1 can Spam, diced
1 (6 oz.) can tuna
1 stalk green onion, sliced
In a medium clay pot or saucepan, combine kim chi and dashida, filling with water until water level is 2 inches from the top. Bring to a boil.
Add remaining ingredients, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Dashida is a Korean stew or soup base that comes in powder form. We have both a beef flavor and an anchovy flavor dashida, depending on which stock we feel like that day. You can find this in any Korean supermarket (e.g. H-Mart).
Because John’s recipe uses dashida, it is obviously not a chigae made from scratch. If you’re looking for that, we can’t help you there. Life is busy. Sometimes we need a shortcut.
You can add just about anything to your chigae. Try mushrooms, onions, zucchini, ground meats, shellfish, slices of beef or pork. We’ve even added pieces of Costco‘s rotisserie chicken to the chigae. The dish that time actually turned out to be the best chigae John had ever made. Go figure. Butter makes everything taste better.
Ca ri ga (chicken curry) is a stew-like dish eaten as a main course. It’s perfect for those cold winter days but because my husband and I have been on a French baguette kick ever since our honeymoon in June (more on that later), I decided to cook up the perfect accompaniment to the baguette.
France has a presence in Vietnamese culture due to the French colonization of the Indochine region during the 19th Century. This is why some of the vernacular transferred and why the baguette is used in several Vietnamese dishes. The beauty of this curry is its versatility in that it can, with a few tweaks, be made with beef instead of chicken. Rice sticks (banh pho), egg noodles (mi), or even rice (com) can also be substituted for the baguette slices.
I got this recipe from my Aunt Carol whose creations I used to scarf down when I lived under her roof back in high school. As with all great cooks, nothing was properly measured in her recipe so I had to cook it several times and modify it here and there before it tasted similar to hers. (The way I was originally cooking it made it super watery–it was missing that slightly thicker consistency of curry. Of course, the Vietnamese variety is not as thick as its Thai or Japanese and Korean counterparts, so don’t worry if it looks more like soup. You can just add more cornstarch to thicken it up.)
Made my house smell funky but oh-so delicious
2-3 lbs. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. cooking oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, cut 3 inches long
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. curry powder
1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut milk
3 (13.5 oz.) can chicken broth
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch, diluted in equal parts water
cilantro for garnish
Combine chicken, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp. of the curry powder in a large bowl. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a large stockpot and saute garlic and onion until fragrant. Add remaining 1 tbsp. curry powder and stir for 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir until completely covered in curry mixture, about 3 minutes.
Add carrots, potatoes, celery, lemongrass, fish sauce, coconut milk, and chicken broth to stockpot. Add enough water to cover ingredients. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until chicken, carrots, and potatoes are cooked through.
Before serving, add cornstarch mixture. Add more for desired thickness. Garnish with cilantro. Serve over rice sticks, egg noodles, rice, or with baguette slices.
Feeling my way through food, tasting my way through life. Supporter of the culinary and literary arts—food and words are my creative portals, the means through which I connect with others. Go ahead and leap—come feel and taste with me. Read More