Saturday, January 14, 2017

Curry Coconut Lentil Soup (Electric Pressure Cooker)

January has brought many storms to us here in the US and many personal ups and downs for me so far, so it was time for a little something cozy and nourishing. The other day I remembered a deliciously healthy soup I used to make and decided to do it in my Instant Pot Duo (full disclosure: that's an Amazon Affiliates link, so if you use it to buy that or something else, I'll make a buck or two). I'm so glad I thought of it, because it's the perfect January recipe. It's healthy, inexpensive, vegan...all those things that help you recover from the holidays and meet your New Year's goals.
I'm not much of a New Year's resolution type myself because I've always found it better to embark on a new goal when I'm really good and ready. How many years in a row did I resolve to clean my room? But this tastes so good, earthy and spicy and warm, that you'll want to keep making it even after you've given up. It also fits into many diet programs easily, including the Always Hungry? lifestyle in all phases. I entered the ingredients into two different calculators and got two wildly different ratios of macros, so I won't share them with you so as not to confuse you. To make a balanced meal for phase 1, you'd need to add some more protein and healthy fat. Here are the ingredients I use: you can replace all those dried spices with a tablespoon of curry powder or add some cayenne, I just can't eat those myself. Yes, I washed the celery before dicing it. Recipe card at the end.
Dice an onion, mince 1-2 cloves of garlic, and peel and grate about a heaping tablespoon each of fresh ginger and turmeric. You can use a teaspoon each of dried ginger and turmeric if you can't find fresh, but more and more markets are carrying them these days. Get the bright orange turmeric, not the white kind. It's supposed to help fight inflammation, which is a really good thing.
Turn on your electric pressure cooker's saute or brown function and add 1-2 Tbsp avocado oil (or other unflavored oil, olive would even be OK here), the onions, and the ginger and turmeric. Also add a tiny pinch of cloves, 1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander, and 1/2 tsp each salt and black pepper. Add 1/2 tsp or more cayenne if you like heat. You can replace all those spices with 1 Tbsp curry powder if you prefer to keep it simple. Saute onions and spices a few minutes until soft and fragrant. It'll smell really good really fast! In the meantime, chop about a cup each of carrots and celery (2 small or 1 large carrot and 1 medium stalk celery) into pieces about like so.
Add the garlic, celery and carrots to the pot and saute for just another minute. Because I'm using pressure, I don't want them too soft before they get cooked. If you make this on the stove, saute them another couple of minutes before adding the other stuff. Add a 14-oz can each diced tomatoes and coconut milk, 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth, and 1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils. Don't use the fancy Lentils de Puy, because they'll stay too hard. Those are for salads.
You can give it a stir, but you don't really have to. The cooker will make it all come together. Set your pressure cooker to 10 minutes high pressure and lock the lid on. Once it has come to pressure and counted down those ten minutes, let it release pressure naturally for ten more minutes before you release the rest by opening the valve. Taste it for salt and pepper, adding in a little more of whichever it needs. Mine needed more salt because I used low- and no-sodium products.
Enjoy it with a little salad, a few bites of your favorite protein and maybe some chickpea crackers. Let me know if you try it! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Cantonese Style Poached Whole Chicken

Yes, rotisserie chickens are easy to find and are getting better all the time, but they really can't compete with a home cooked chicken. I've been experimenting with doing whole chickens at home, mostly butterflied and roasted, and researching the best ways to do it. From all the information I've gleaned, all the best recipes have one thing in common: salting the chicken 1-2 days in advance. If I haven't planned ahead, I'll usually go to Trader Joe's and get a Kosher chicken, which has been brined already. Ina Garten doesn't specify that in this recipe, but she waxes poetic about the late Judy Rodgers' version at Zuni Cafe, which even suggests salting it 2-3 days ahead. However, I'd also been in search of the perfect poached Cantonese chicken recipe since I worked up the Magic Ginger Scallion Sauce back in September. It serves about 4-6 people and takes an hour to an hour and a half, not including the day ahead salting.
If you're intrigued but not quite convinced that a chicken without browned skin could taste good, believe me, it took a while for my eyes to adjust as well, However, this is the best technique for moist, tender, flavorful chicken, which makes up for the lack of yummy crispy skin. Every recipe I looked up and every person I talked to had a slightly different technique and timing, so eventually I just went with a combination of the two ladies most recently arrived from Guangdong I'd spoken with, a student of mine and a very sweet cashier at Whole Foods!
Now, I say Cantonese Style because this is not entirely authentically Cantonese: I don't know when it was, let's just say processed, but I'm thinking it wasn't right before I brought it home. Also, the head and feet have been removed, so they wouldn't consider it whole. I still consider it whole enough to say thank you to it for feeding me. But back to it! This is about a 4 lb chicken, the smallest I can usually find.
I keep an eye out for sales, and got this from the butcher counter for just $1.69 a pound. Not organic, but from a good producer. One night ahead, remove the bag of bits from the inside. Save all but the liver to make chicken broth later (I keep a big Ziploc of scraps and stuff in the freezer until I have enough). Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle it with salt, preferably Kosher salt or coarse sea salt. Use about 3/4 tsp per pound of chicken. If I were roasting, I'd use black pepper as well, but not for this. You'll notice I don't say to rinse it. Current thinking seems to be that rinsing just spreads any bad stuff around the kitchen, while boiling or roasting will kill it off anyway. Cover with plastic wrap and pop the chicken in the fridge.  Take it out about an hour before you start.
Put enough water in a stock pot to cover the chicken (you can put it in with the water to test or just add more water to cover if it isn't enough). Add a green onion or two and a one inch piece of ginger. Bring the water to a boil. When it boils, add 2 tsp salt and the chicken. If you need to add more water, please do. I had to add a little here.
Bring the pot back up to a boil--this will take a few minutes because a big cool chicken cools down the water quite a bit. Once it comes back to a rolling boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, put the lid on and set the timer for 10 minutes. After the timer goes off, turn the heat off and set another timer for 30 minutes (this is for a four pound chicken, so put more time for bigger or less for smaller). When it goes off, remove the lid and poke the chicken with a chopstick twice: in the breast and in the thick part of the base of the thigh. If the juices run clear, it's done! If they don't, it needs a little more time. If it's really red, you can bring it back up to a boil for another 5 minutes.

When the chicken is done, set up another large pot or bowl with ice water. Transfer the chicken to the ice water to stop the cooking and cool it down. This dish is served cold or at room temp. Let the chicken cool to room temp, turning it over if you need to. Save the poaching liquid to use as broth in soup, Yes, it's still white. It's OK, it's cooked 😊
Carve up (ideally bone in, but my carving skills are not that great) and serve with the above-mentioned ginger scallion sauce.

For AHers: serve with soybeans or an orange for phase 1, or with brown rice for phase 2. Add a little steamed broccoli or bok choy.
For non-AHers: serve over steamed jasmine rice.