To my faithful readers, I know it has been a while since I have posted but the extreme heat and flurry of the summer’s activities, both good and bad, has left me feeling uninspired and void of creative spirit. I decided rather than force the issue I would use the time for reflection, rest and healing much like a fallow field left unplowed and unseeded while it rejuvenates.
That said, we recently had a brief period where the weather felt like Autumn and my upcoming soup classes in the near future served as inspiration to develop a new recipe. I am sure I have mentioned how much I love, love, love making soups. There are always the stories that accompany each creation telling of its origin, the inspiration and creative process which delight me. Here’s my story. I have been thinking for sometime now that I should develop a recipe for my husband’s favorite Chinese soup, that is how it started. Next I was talking to my BFF and she was describing what was on the menu as she prepared for having a dinner guest. Turns out her first course was Hot & Sour Soup so I requested the recipe. Having it in hand, I printed out several other recipes to compare and see how I could make it a bit simpler so it would appeal to my culinary students. Since this soup is what my husband uses to evaluate every Chinese restaurant he visits, I was very pleased to receive high praise and accolades. It was a huge hit!
Here is how it went down.
HOT & SOUR SOUP Serves 4-6
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
4 dried Chinese mushrooms such as, wood ear
6 oz cremini mushrooms or white button
2T neutral cooking oil such as, grape seed
1- piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1T sambal oelek (red chili paste),reduce if you want less heat
1/4 c naturally brewed soy sauce
3T rice vinegar
1T sweetened black vinegar (or 4T of just the rice vinegar)
1t sea salt
1t freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch of sugar
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock infused with Asian flavors (see recipe below)
8oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into thin strips (about 1/4-inch)
2T corn starch mixed with 1/4c water (if you prefer a thicker soup, use 3T of the corn starch)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 scallions (mostly green parts with some white), sliced thin
1/2c cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
- Reconstitute wood ears by soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain and cut into thin slices, discarding any hard spots.
- Trim the bottoms of the fresh mushroom stems and slice thick, about 1/4 inch.
- Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat. Add the ginger, sambal oelelek and both mushrooms. Stir to incorporate the flavors and cook for about one minute. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar(s), salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Pour the soy sauce mixture into the pot and toss with the mushrooms. Cook for a minute or two and add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the tofu and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Add the corn starch slurry and continue to simmer until soup is thickened to your liking.
- Remove the soup from the heat and using a whisk swirl the soup in one direction until you create a whirlpool. Slowly add the beaten egg in a steady stream to the center. The egg will cook almost instantly. Serve hot garnished with the scallions and cilantro, of using.
ASIAN INFUSED STOCK Makes 2 quarts
2 quarts + 1c of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or commercial will do)
1 medium onion, quartered
4 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed
3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
1t whole black pepper corns
Bring the stock and remaining ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour. If time permits, remove from heat and allow to steep for another hour. Strain through a fine sieve or strainer lined with cheese cloth. Chill if not using immediately.
Can be made several days ahead and stored in refrigerator.
Although I used homemade chicken stock, it is not necessary and if you want it vegetarian, use vegetable stock and if vegan, skip the egg. Making the stock ahead is great as it is there when you need it. The remainder of the process comes together quickly. I chose to make mine without meat but pork is often seen in this preparation as is chicken. Make it your own.
I must say I have missed you and it feels very good to be back. I hope your summer has been filled with the things that make you most happy and that you made some memories by spreading the love, one dish at a time. For those returning to school, I wish you a most successful year as you move on with your journey. Until next time, sending love from my kitchen to yours. Jeanne