Thai Chicken and Mushroom Soup with Kale and Squash
- Lemongrass is a grass, actually a genus made up of about 55 species. The oil extracted from it is used as a pesticide (think citronella), and has anti-fungal properties. Super cool things. However, where it is woody you need to help it give off as much flavor as you can. In preparation you should take off the outer 1-2 leaves, if more look old and dried up take those off too. You then need to bruise the stalks - I do this by whacking it with the back of my chef's knife. Give it a good whacking, all up and down it. This helps to break up the fibers and release the lemony flavor. Then, on the bias (diagonal), cut 1 inch sections; removing the bottom end and the top as it gets dried out and grassy. See picture above.
- Kaffir lime leaves, the leaves of the kaffir lime tree, which really only grow in warmer climates. When I find these, I stock up. They are becoming easier to locate, I've even found them at my local Market Basket on occasion. Fresh is best, however frozen is perfectly fine. Whatever I don't use immediately I freeze and keep on hand. In this instance I just toss the leaves in, like you would bay leaves and then remove before eating. In other recipes you chiffonade and eat them. They give a delightfully light, slightly sweet, lime-citrus flavor to anything.
- Galangal is essentially Thai ginger. It's a little woodier, has a little bit of a lighter taste, and looks a little bit more like a bamboo-ginger. In this recipe you don't get too much of a difference between flavors.
- Cilantro. I find most people have a pretty good grasp on cilantro in mainstream cooking now. It's the relative of parsley, used in Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern cooking. Even if you're not a cilantro lover, you can use a few sprigs in the stock to help season without getting overwhelmed by the flavor. I usually cut the long stems off, using stems in simmering stock and reserve the leaves to add in last to preserve their greeness and texture.
- Think of these four as the bouquet garni of Thai cooking, and you are flavoring your regular stock to become the base for this classic Thai soup.
- If you can't find Thai basil I would just leave it out, it adds a nice extra depth, but it is not necessary.
- Non-Thai related: feel free to substitute the suggested varieties of Winter squash, mushrooms, stock for whatever you have on hand or what you can find.
4 stalks lemongrass, bruised, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup (2-3 inch piece) thinly sliced galangal or ginger
5 kaffir lime leaves, whole
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems (leaves, see below)
1/2 qt (16 oz) stock, I prefer to use my own homemade chicken stock, vegetable will work fine too
4-5 cloves garlic, roughly sliced
1 cup chicken, pulled or raw. I use leftover cooked chicken and pull it, but raw is fine too, I would suggest using thighs
chopped hot peppers, optional. For the Thai I would use 4-5, for jalapenos I would use 1-2. *I also like using chili garlic sauce
1-2 tsp curry paste, or powder depending. I prefer a red curry for this. Indian Madras curry is fine if you already have that.
1 tsp ground cumin - I will rant about buying ground vs grinding your own some other time :)
1.5-2 13.5-fl oz cans of coconut milk
1 smallish-med winter squash (I used buttercup today, but butternut, acorn, delicata, even pumpkin work well) 1-inch cubes
1 bunch kale (I prefer curly or red kale, it's a texture thing for me, I think it holds up and gives a little more substance)
3.5 oz container of shitake mushrooms, de-stemmed, and thinly sliced (the stems are too woody to eat)
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, leave several pretty ones for garnish
1/2 bunch thinly sliced scallions, on the bias
2 sprigs Thai basil leaves, finely chopped
1 lime - wedges
Optional: other veggies, proteins (tofu, meat), chopped hot peppers (thai or jalapenos, depending on your spice preference, jalapeno is less), honey, Thai chili garlic, sea salt, ground pepper, cheesecloth
- To create the Thai bouquet garni, in a cheesecloth, wrap up the prepared lemongrass, cilantro stems, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and garlic. If you want the spice but not the chunks of hot pepper add these as well to the cheesecloth (I usually leave them in). Tie the cheesecloth up. Note: If you do not have a cheese cloth just start in a smaller saucepan and strain the simmered stock into the soup pot after 15 minutes.
- Pour the stock into a medium soup pot, bring to a simmer. Add the Thai bouquet garni.
- While this is simmering, prepare your chicken, squash, kale and mushrooms.
- Add in your hot peppers, if you haven't already, as well as the cumin, curry, and coconut milk. If you are using pre-cooked chicken, ignore the rest of this step. If your chicken is raw, add it now. Once cooked move on to step 5.
- Make sure to keep the soup at a simmer while cooking, adjusting as you go.
- Add your cubed squash. When fork tender add the kale, mushrooms, pre-cooked chicken, and any other optionals.
- Once everything is just cooked, not overdone, turn off the burner and add in the cilantro, green onions (scallions) and thai basil. Season to taste. Depending upon the batch of stock I sometimes add honey, salt, more lime juice, and pepper. Serve with the lime wedges and garnish with the reserved cilantro sprigs.