Sometimes nothing is more satisfying than a bowl of homemade, from scratch soup. Last week I was down with the flu and my stomach still was not 100% up to par. I'd been given gai choy (mustard cabbage) that had been picked from my friend, Elsie's, garden just hours before. The gift of gai choy immediately made me think of local oxtail soup with its rich steaming broth, the mustard cabbage and the dried peanuts. But, too rich. So my fall back plan turned out perfect- a simple chicken soup with gai choy. Locavore fare. And as a bonus, Science has proven Mother right. Chicken soup has antibiotic qualities.
I think, I know, what elevated this soup was using Edna Lewis' technique of gently coddling the chicken, coaxing the juices out. Her technique is in her book "In Pursuit of Flavor" It's faster, simpler and way more flavorful than boiling chicken for hours.
This is how I did it and I included brands because I believe they make a difference. Mostly I've been cooking with a dry Sherry but when I tried making a chao'd dish with whiskey in the marinade I instantly knew that that was the distinctive ingredient that my Mom and Aunties used. I made this Soup a bit more Asian than Edna's original version, although I used her technique. If you read the recipe through once you will see it is quite simple and endlessly adaptable to whatever soup vegetable is available. On the second try you won't even need to reread the recipe.
Simple Soothing Chicken Soup with Gai Choy
Thaw 2 pounds of chicken thighs in water with 1/4 c. of Hawaiian salt. If using fresh chicken, use the same water-salt mixture (brine) and leave in the fridge for 1/2 hour. Drain and rinse chicken. Discard water-salt mixture. Marinate the chicken in 1/4 c. Kikkoman or Yamasa shoyu and 2 T. of Seagram's 7 whiskey for at least 1/2 hour. Pat the chicken dry but reserve the marinating liquids.
Brown the chicken and 2 slices, pounded, of ginger in a soup pot with 2 T. of oil. Stir briskly with a wooden spoon for 5 min. on Med-High. Turn down to a high simmer and cover pot. Let it simmer for 15 min. Check to see if the juices from the chicken have started to come halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces. If not, turn the heat up a notch. Add 2 c. of water and the marinating liquids. Let this simmer for another 15-20 min. Check to see if the chicken if fully cooked, if not, simmer for another couple of minutes. Remove the chicken and debone. Chop the chicken into large 2" pieces.
At this point, you can make the Soup right away or you can keep the stock and chicken in separate plastic containers in the fridge or freeze them so that you have both deboned chicken and stock on hand. The stock will be so concentrated that you may want to add more water when you use it.
To make the Soup, add the deboned chicken back into the stock and heat. Chop the gai choy into 1" widths. Add the green stalks first, let that cook for 1 min., add the leaves. Let that cook for another minute and the soup is ready to savor.
You can use most any type of soup vegetables, instead of or in addition to the gai choy-bok choy, wong bok, watercress, sauteed carrots or mushrooms.
Chinese New Year falls on Valentine's Day this year. There will be a number of events revolving around Chinese food that I'll be blogging on this month. Gung Hee Fat Choy!