September 25, 2019

Dear friends,
While I played Florence Nightingale with chicken soup last week, Tony was making a sneak attack as Typhoid Mary. Despite tons of Lysol and Purell, I got his sore throat and fever. Ugh.

Luckily, he perked up just as I started wilting, which meant it was my turn for soup. Not just any soup. Tony made a soulful, miso-enriched soup that is my new favorite. And, sweetheart that he is, my husband measured and wrote down everything that went into the pot and presented me with the recipe so I wouldn’t have to work while I was ill.

Chefs, especially sushi chefs, do not write down recipes. I was touched. I was also puzzled by some of his notations such as “1 ladle miso.” No matter. The soup was so good that I was happy to recreate it with universal measurements Monday, when I was feeling better. Tony and I worked together chopping and measuring to get the same magical result.

In much of Japanese cooking, how the ingredients are chopped is of paramount importance. The size and shape affects the texture and flavor of the finished dish. That is true with this soup, which is why I explain in detail how Tony cut the ingredients. He also has a brilliant technique for dissolving the miso in the soup without mashing the tender vegetables.

The soup is called “butajiru” in Japan, which means “pork soup.” I call it luscious.

JAPANESE PORK-MISO SOUP

6 cups water
1 1/2 tbsp. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
1 medium potato
1 lb. lean pork loin
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1/3 cup white miso
Pinch of togarashi (Japanese 7-spice seasoning)
1 tbsp. butter or margarine

Bring water to a simmer in a medium-size saucepan. While water heats, cut the vegetables and meat. Scrub and trim the carrots and cut into pieces about 1-by-1/2 inches by rolling the carrot while cutting off pieces at an angle starting at the tip. Cut, half turn, cut, half turn, etc.

Trim and peel the onion and cut in fourths vertically. Cut each piece horizontally into 1/4-inch thick slices. Peel the potato and cut lengthwise into fourths. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add all of the vegetables to the pot of simmering water.

Trim the pork of fat and cut into pieces about the same size as the potato and onion slices. Add to the pot. Stir in salt and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the meat is cooked and vegetables are tender.

Measure out the miso and transfer to the bowl of a ladle. Submerge the ladle in the bubbling soup, then bring it to the surface and stir the top of the miso with a fork, dissolving it bit by bit into the soup. Continue dipping the ladle below the surface, lifting it to the surface and stirring it with a fork. Be patient because it will take a while to dissolve the entire ladle of miso into the soup.

Season the soup with togarashi. Add the butter or margarine. Simmer a few minutes longer, until butter melts and forms a golden sheen on the top of the soup. Ladle into bowls. Makes 2 servings according to Tony, 4 according to me.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Grilled tomahawk rib steak with horseradish sauce, sliced tomatoes; pork and green chile stew; tomato, prosciutto and melted mozzarella sandwich on toast; fried egg sandwich with fresh sage, tomato and whipped cream cheese.

What I ate out:
Marinated grilled chicken, kefta, kibbee, pita and hummus from the Mediterranean Market & Grill in Cuyahoga Falls; chicken and sun-dried tomato sandwich from Panera; an apple fritter and a bite of a pulled pork sandwich at the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Lisbon; a Dairy Queen vanilla cone.

THE MAILBAG
From Cindy W.:
Since you’ve asked, my method of boosting the flavor of store-bought chicken broth is a variant of yours.

When Costco’s rotisserie chicken beckons me, I usually buy two. After my first hot meal of dark meat, I remove all meaty sections (to save for future meals) and all the skin. I add the package drippings, carcasses, wings and skin to 2 to 4 quarts of boxed reduced-sodium chicken broth in a stock pot, adding a carrot and a celery rib and top if I have them on hand. I bring all to the boil and simmer covered for an hour. I strain out all the solids and add the meat remaining on the bones.

I find the rotisserie flavor imparted to the broth makes it taste almost like the homemade broth of my youth, when chicken bones were mature enough to make a decent, flavorful broth.

From Dorothy G.:
Re: chicken soup, I just make the soup like you did, but I do brown chicken thighs before I proceed. I add carrots, celery and onion. Also add some parsley and dashes of Hungarian paprika. I like very thin noodles and buy Bechtle soup noodles. You can get them at Marc’s or Aldi’s. They only take 4 minutes to cook and I cook them separately and then add to a bowl of soup. Good for what ails and also for the coming cold weather. FYI, I use Better Than Bouillon low-fat chicken base for the broth.

From Marty L.:
My chicken soup starts the very same way yours does, but if I have the time, I brown the chicken before adding it to the broth. Then after removing it to de-bone it, I add it back with a handful of carrot and celery chunks. My usual seasonings are a teaspoon of curry powder, salt and pepper and and a sprinkle of parsley, along with a quarter teaspoon of turmeric and a good squirt of ketchup that gives it a beautiful golden color. I use rice or noodles, depending on the request of the sick person.

From Jo K.:
For easy chicken soup, use cartons of your favorite chicken broth, Sam’s Club rotisserie chicken, whole onions with the outer skin, celery ( with leaves if possible), carrots and maybe turnips.

Remove chicken legs and a few slices of breast meat to be used as desired. Put the chicken and all of the above ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour or more. Remove the onion and celery as well as chicken. Take the meat off the bones and return to the soup with carrots. Salt and pepper to taste.

From Nancy S.:
I take most of the meat off a rotisserie chicken, then put the bones, skin and juice in a slow cooker with store-bought broth. I let it cook on low for 12 to 24 hours depending on my schedule. I strain the broth into large pot, add meat and carrots, celery, onion and salt and pepper if needed, and cook until the veggies are tender and finish with fresh parsley and fine noodles.

You can add all of the meat and make a big pot or you can make a smaller pot and have chicken salad or chicken enchiladas or… just easy breezy chicken soup!

Dear chicken soup gang:
Thanks for all of your suggestions. I learned a few things, and relearned others. Jo reminded me that onion skin imparts a deep golden color to chicken stock. Marty’s idea of using turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory) is one I will steal. Making the enriched stock in a slow cooker is a good idea, too. A big thank you to everyone who shared their quick chicken soup techniques.

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