The Cheap-Ass Gourmet – Thai Coconut & Lemongrass Soup

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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39 Responses

  1. Avatar Reformed Republican
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    says:

    I am looking to expand my cooking, so I think I am going to try the first two recipes this weekend. Can I just freeze the carcass to make soup some other time, or am I better off making the soup and refrigerating it to server later?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Reformed Republican
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      says:

      Freezing the carcass will work great. (Though you should plan on using it within about 5-6 months; if you find it after a year or two, toss it.)

      In fact, if you want to, if you use onions or mushrooms in between now and when you do the soup, take the cut off bits of that you don’t use (the outer skins or ends of the onion, the hard ends of the stems of the ‘shrooms) and freeze them along with the carcass. If you throw them when it’s time to make the soup, it will make the broth better.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Reformed Republican
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      says:

      You can also make a stock* beforehand and freeze that. Just follow step 1 and then freeze.

      * For the record, it is my understanding that what you’ve described here is actually a basic stock recipe, not a broth, because you use already cooked chicken bones. Regardless of what we call it, it can be frozen and saved.Report

  2. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    …. Baking with Wood Ash, Baking Soda, Baking Powder is Chemistry. Measure twice, add once.
    …. Baking a loaf of bread is Biology, which is far more forgiving to screw ups. (although forgetting the yeast might lengthen the time to rise from ~1 hour to ~a week or two). I insist the bread remains edible even if you forgot the yeast (though far less tasty)Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    You’re Point #1 can’t be emphasized enough. For a long time, I *couldn’t* bake. I didn’t have the patience, discipline, or focus to follow a recipe. If I could go at the stove or grill Iron Chef style, I could almost assuredly come up with something tasty. But every attempt to “improve” a baking recipe fell flat, since any change made often required a series of changes to counterbalance whatever the initial change was. Cooking with my students, which almost always entails baking, has taught me the necessary skills to be an adequate baker. I actually plan on making fresh soup and bread this weekend. When shopping with Zazzy, I said, “I’m just going to get these things and make a soup out of them, one way or another. But god help us if we get the wrong type of flour again… bread will be ruined forever!”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      you’ve found a place that you can buy cake flour?
      White flour, I ought to say, is remarkably forgiving.
      Spelt flour is completely and totally awful.Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I am on the other end of the spectrum. I can do great at following recipes, but I have no idea where to start when it comes to making modifications to things. I hope that as I cook more I will learn how to do this and can get more creative.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Reformed Republican
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        says:

        Try some basics: Salt(or soy–easier to measure)/Sour(lemon/vinegar)/Sweet… and occasionally bitter. Take out a spoon of whatever you’re cooking, and add a bit of one of the basics. See if it tastes better. If so, carefully add to the pot.

        My chicken soup is sweeter’n anything — still savory, though.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Reformed Republican
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        says:

        RR,

        My wife is similar to you. She could take out a Martha Stewart cookbook and make something that not only looked like the picture, but tasted fantastic.

        Two things have helped me in my experimentation:
        1.) Eating lots of different cuisines and dishes. This will give you an idea of what can be done, what does or does not go together, and how your palette functions. While many schools of thought tell you there are “right” ways to do things or “right” combinations, at the end of the day, if you like it, you like it.
        2.) Watching some of the crazier cooking shoes, such as “Iron Chef”, “Chopped”, and “Top Chef.” There is a lot of ridiculousness to all of them, but they all require chefs to be really creative and innovative with ingredients, so you can sort of get a sense of things to play with.

        There are still certain forms and techniques you need to learn. I recommend Alton Brown and Michael Rulhman, since they give you a broad skill set which you can deviate from as opposed to a single recipe that helps you to make one dish well but do little else.

        Really, just have fun with it. Be willing to have some flops and bad meals as you experiment. Oh, and learn to control your heat! Nothing can ruin an otherwise great experimentation than a pan or your oil getting to hot and simply burning everything!Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Reformed Republican
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        says:

        I have two suggestions if you’re looking to get better at this:

        1. When making things like soup, add things you think you like slowly, taste as you go, and keep adding until it tastes good.

        2. When you’re eating out and order something you really, really like, ask the server what it is you’re tasting that makes it so good.If the server doesn’t know, they’ll check with the chef… and chefs love to get these questions. I find that if it isn’t overly busy, they will sometimes actually come out to the table to talk about it rather than just tell the server what to tell you.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
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          says:

          “1. When making things like soup, add things you think you like slowly, taste as you go, and keep adding until it tastes good.”

          This is a great point. I call this the “Salad Bar Quandary”. For a long time, I couldn’t effectively visit a salad bar. “OOO! Cucumbers. I LOVE cucumbers. I also like olives. Mmmm, and roasted red peppers. Well hello there, blue cheese dressing… how rarely we meet!” It didn’t take long before the whole experience was ruined. Blue cheese dressing on olives? BLEH! I couldn’t edit. I figured if I liked a bunch of things individually then collectively they must just taste that much better. Not so. One thing at a time. It also helps you know what did or didn’t work. If you throw 40 things together and it’s bad, it might have just been one or two of them that wrecked the dish… but you’ll never know. More isn’t necessarily better, as much as it may seem. This was part of what made me incapable of baking for so long.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          and remember Salt Fatigue! Taste, salt, and walk away for five minutes. Then taste again.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          2. When you’re eating out and order something you really, really like, ask the server what it is you’re tasting that makes it so good.If the server doesn’t know, they’ll check with the chef… and chefs love to get these questions. I find that if it isn’t overly busy, they will sometimes actually come out to the table to talk about it rather than just tell the server what to tell you.

          Tod, sometimes it’s just a heads up…Report

  4. Avatar Reformed Republican
    Ignored
    says:

    Thanks for all the advice everyone.
    What are must-have ingredients I should stock in my kitchen? Basic recommended seasonings and things like that.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley
    Ignored
    says:

    Thanks for this series, Tod. You have no idea how much I like Thai Coconut, Lemongrass and Chicken soup (aka, Tom Ka Gai). I would sell my soul, had I one left, for a bowl.

    When things slow down a bit (and I can manage to find a free range chicken–maybe I should just take a drive in the country with a burlap sack…) I’m going to do the whole series. And every meal will begin by giving thanks to Our Tod.Report

  6. Avatar M.A.
    Ignored
    says:

    No galanga root? I suggest throwing some of it in if you can find it. Water chestnuts make a good backup as well, not as firm but the same flavor-absorbing properties.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to M.A.
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      says:

      Think of this as a variation on Tom Ka Gai. Since it’s for people that might not cook much, I did not want to send them to international grocery stores in search of galanga.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to RTod
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        says:

        I had some cans of coconut milk we picked up cheap laying around, waiting for a piña colada day. Mrs. TVD is a Tom Ka Gai freak and all of a sudden it occurred to me to open

        One can coconut milk
        One can chicken broth
        One can canned chicken
        One can mushrooms

        And we wuz stylin’.

        A bay leaf
        a squeeze of lime or lemon juice
        a bit of curry powder
        anchovy paste if you have no fish sauce

        I keep fish sauce in [2 dollah @ Asian market] but you can use anchovy paste and mebbe a little soy. This just reminded me, duh. Here’s a real recipe, but the bastardized TVD Ka Gai works with what you might have handy, with no apologies.

        http://www.feedmefarms.com/2009/05/tom-kha-gai-thai-coconut-curry-chicken.htmlReport

  7. Avatar Joel Stevens
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    says:

    My girlfriend absolutely adores lemongrass soup. Seriously, I don’t see the appeal, but I have yet to try a lot of different types of it, so who knows.Report

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