When the winter doldrums set in, I like to turn up the heat in the kitchen with dishes that take me on a culinary journey to the islands.
This week’s Island Chicken Soup is a winter warmer that isn’t tied to any particular cuisine. It’s a combination I came up with that’s got a hint of spice from red curry paste and a touch of sweetness from coconut milk.
The red curry paste is available in the Asian ingredients section of most supermarkets. It can be spicy, so you can start with a little bit and then add more to get the spiciness your family likes. Curry powder can be used in its place, but it won’t add the heat, so I like to add ½ to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the soup if using standard American yellow curry powder.
Potatoes add heft to the soup, and you can use frozen, defrosted Southern-style hash browns or diced fresh potatoes, depending on what you have on hand and the time you have for preparation. The potatoes cook down and thicken the soup a bit, and the flavors really help beat the winter blues.
The soup also includes rice, and my preference is basmati. You can purchase packages of cooked basmati from the supermarket or you can cook the rice separately before adding it to the soup.
The chicken for the soup can be leftover grilled chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken.
Another way is to finely dice fresh, raw chicken breast meat and saute it along with the onions and carrots.
Pack leftover soup to reheat in the microwave for a midday meal at the office.
ISLAND CHICKEN SOUP
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 small onion, very finely chopped, about 1 cup
2 small carrots, peeled and grated, about 1 cup
1-2 tablespoons red curry paste, to taste, or 1 tablespoon curry powder plus ½-1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups of frozen Southern-style hash browns or 2 cups peeled and diced fresh potato
1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
2 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth or 4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 cup cooked rice (use white, brown or basmati)
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and saute about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry paste or powder, hash browns, tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer 10 minutes more. Season to with salt and pepper as needed.
Makes 4-6 servings.