Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chicken Coconut Curry Soup

...ferry boat inspired.

 “Ferry boat food”. Does the phrase bring to mind crowds of passengers, all impatient and queued up in long lines, waiting to slide cafeteria trays down stainless steel ledges, ready to pick up bland, fast-food, carb-loaded meals? Ugh, not my thing. Well, adjust that image to include some new additions to the familiar fare of eggy breakfasts or lunches featuring burgers ‘n fries (poutine perhaps?).

This recipe was inspired by a bowl of soup enjoyed on a trip between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island (Tsawassan to Nanaimo) earlier this year. Who would have thought that ferry food would ever be considered “inspiring”?! This soup was almost too good to share more than a taste with RL, but I relented and welcomed his ingredient analysis. This would be a tempting recipe challenge to work on during our travels afloat.

While I don’t have the recipe for that original bowl of soup, this version scored high with taste testers in my galley. The various ingredients play nicely together, a surprise with some assertive items like ginger, cayenne, curry and garlic involved. No single flavor dominates, but they all have a role. By itself the Chicken Coconut Curry Soup is delicious, but don’t skip the Coconut Rice – it makes the dish something special. 

Chicken Coconut Curry Soup
Serves 2

1 plump, skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut in slivers
1 generous Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Garam Masala
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled & grated
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon liquid honey
1 cup chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Optional toppings: shredded flat-leaf parsley, basil, mint and
3 to 4 chopped green onions (green & white parts)

Serve with Coconut Rice (recipe below)
and some extra hot sauce for anyone who likes fiery flavors

For the soup:
1.   Cut the chicken into narrow slivers, roughly 1.5 to 2-inches long. Toss with cornstarch to coat completely; set aside.
2.   In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent.
3.   Stir in the Garam Masala, curry powder, cayenne pepper (if using) and ginger; stir for a minute or two until fragrant.
4.   Add the honey, chicken stock and coconut milk and mix together until smooth. Cook for several minutes; taste and adjust seasonings. Lower the heat until the soup bubbles at a low simmer.
5.   Add the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces and cook to just heat through but still moist and tender. The liquid will thicken slightly.
6.   Ladle into bowls and top with green onions and shreds of parsley, basil and mint. Serve with Coconut Rice alongside, or spoon a mound of the rice into each bowl.

Coconut Rice
Serves 4 to 6

1 cup rice (I use Jasmine or brown Basmati)
2 cups water
¼ cup coconut milk
pinch of salt (optional)
¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut

Cook rice as indicated on packaging, substituting the ¼ cup coconut milk for ¼ cup of the water. Add the shredded coconut at the end or cook it with the rice, either way works fine.

You will have more rice than needed for the soup. I make extra on purpose to have some available for breakfast or a late night snack. Warm 1 part milk or coconut milk with a handful of raisins. Add 2 parts coconut rice plus a sprinkle of sugared cinnamon and heat or microwave to warm through. Scatter some slivered almonds on top and enjoy.   

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Herb Crusted Pork Scallopini

Why was a small 2-pound frozen pork loin roast a problem? Don’t roll your eyes - I wanted the space for rolls of Cruising Cookie dough. You're laughing, right? Refrigerator/freezer space is an ongoing issue when we cruise. I need space for frozen vegetables, meat, poultry, etc. and a little ice cream to carry us through the weeks between towns and provisioning opportunities. The Capt. requires space for bait and fresh-caught seafood when we can’t consume the entire catch immediately. It becomes an interesting dialogue.

Two pounds of pork were too much for a dinner for two, and the roast was only partially thawed. So I sliced off three chops to work with for dinner and put the still-frozen chunk back in the fridge to deal with tomorrow. Next I cut a small bouquet of sage from the overflowing herb pot and paused… now what? 

Sage has such an assertive presence I don’t use it often; it needs other strong flavors to tame it. Garlic, grainy mustard and lemon sounded good, and in the end they all came together better than anticipated.

Sage and lemon are a tasty team, and the mustard and Parmesan add a terrific light crust. The sauce could be fancied up with marsala and cream instead of lemon, but we enjoyed the lighter approach. While I miss having a large in-ground garden,  the herb pot has been great fun to work with once again. 

Herb Crusted Pork Scallopini

3 pork loin chops (1/2-inch thick)
salt and black pepper
garlic powder (to taste)
3 Tablespoons grainy mustard
3 Tablespoons fresh sage, minced +more for topping
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
approx 2 teaspoons smokey paprika
1 Tablespoon canola oil or cooking spray
2 Tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
zest of 1 lemon, divided
juice of 1 lemon
additional salt and pepper (optional)

Sprinkle a small amount of water on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place a steak on top of the plastic and sprinkle again with water. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and pound until about 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining 2 steaks.

Lightly sprinkle the pork with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Spread one side with mustard, scatter half of the sage and cheese on top and press firmly to attach. Dust lightly with smokey paprika. Repeat on the second side.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork until lightly browned on both sides but still quite pink in the middle, 2 minutes or less per side. Add the butter to the pan and and heat until melted. Add the lemon juice and half of the zest and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce ingredients blend and pork is barely pink in the center.

Transfer to warmed serving plate and pour the pan juices over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining lemon zest, a scattering of shredded sage and additional salt and pepper as desired.   

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