Cooking Nigella Lawson’s Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

While flipping through Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson I was absolutely drawn to her Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup recipe (page 82). So far under the spell was I that I ignored two very basic facts: 1) our two-year-old doesn’t do so well with soup and 2) it was just starting to get crazy hot when I made it. Ah well, it turned out to be super good, so who cares? I’d rather sweat through making a really great dish that I can use again later down the line than make one that’s not so good any day.

Like a lot of the dishes I’ve made out of Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge, there’s a lot of prep work involved here. You cut the pork tenderloin up and then mix it with lime, soy sauce, paprika and fish sauce. While that marinates for about 15 minutes, you can cut up the bok choy, start the pasta water and get the other ingredients ready. I couldn’t find the sprouts and skipped the chiles, so there were a few things I didn’t have to deal with.

Then you’re off to the cooking races. The chicken broth goes in its own pot while you start cooking scallions and then the pork. I used a regular pan this time, but think I’ll go with the wok next time just to see how the process differs. Anyway, there’s more cooking and then transferring of ingredients until you wind up with a pot of noodle-y, porky, boy choy-y soup just begging to be eaten.

If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed this dish. The tenderloin took on great flavor even with such a short marinade and the broth had that great saltiness to it that actually made me excited to eat leftovers the next few days. I will definitely make this dish again, but most likely when it’s a bit cooler outside.

Disney World Bonus Food Pics: And The Rest

My apologies to regular readers for the intense lack of posts the past month or so. Between the lead-up to vacation, vacation itself, getting back into the groove with work and being sick and not cooking for all of last week, writing about food unfortunately fell pretty low on the priority list. I know the Disney trip seems like it was pretty long ago at this point, but I wanted to finish things out (if you’re curious to see what else we ate either scroll down or read, this, this, this and this).

pizzafari lunch

The Wednesday we spent at Disney World — which also happened to be my dad’s birthday — was spent hanging out in Animal Kingdom. As happened last time we all went there, it was a rainy day, though not nearly as bad as the previous visit. For lunch we went with a counter service at Pizzafari. When I think about food like this I always think it’s going to taste like the box it was delivered in, but I’ve got to say it was a pretty solid little pizza. I mean, it was nothing like the places around us in New York, but it also wasn’t terrible. I’m always a fan of Cesar salads and also went with the pudding for desert. I have no problem recommending Pizzafari if you’re in Animal Kingdom looking for a good lunch place.

boma soup

To celebrate my dad’s birthday, we went to the African buffet dinner at Boma which is located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The last time we went to Disney World, this place was easily our number one favorite eating spot. I’ve got to say, though, that the experience wasn’t quite as enjoyable this time around. For one thing, the place was PACKED, so it was kind of hard to navigate the buffet line. Making matters a bit worse, the actual buffet is set up kind of poorly. People tend to line up for the carved meat, but are you supposed to get in that line before going after the other sections? Some people clearly think so while others did not. I went rogue when I needed to, as is my want.

But, the food was still really great. My personal favorite dish is the Coconut Curry Chicken Soup (above right). I’m also a fan of the Ginger Carrot Soup (above left). The interesting thing about eating at Boma this time around is that it wasn’t quite as revelatory. The food was still fantastic, but in the time since we ate there the first time, I’ve eaten and cooked a lot of different foods. Still, if you’re in Disney World, go eat at Boma, it’s worth it.

Croque Monsieur

Thursday was my daughter’s second birthday, so we tried to cater our dining choices to things she might get a kick out of. Since we were in Magic Kingdom that morning, we decided to try out one of the new eateries in New Fantasyland called Be Our Guest and as you might imagine, the place is Beauty And The Beast themed. This was the only place we ate at where diners could use a touch screen to order their food and while I love that idea, the practice was difficult because most people apparently can’t fathom how to use such a system just yet (even the helper at our station took longer to input our desired meal than it would have taken me). Anyway, my wife and I decided to split two different sandwiches because we couldn’t decide. So, we each had half of the Croque Monsieur (“Grilled Sandwich of Carved Ham and Gruyere Cheese and Bechamel with Pommes Frites”) and the Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich (“Served warm on a Baguette with Horseradish Sour Cream and Pommes Frites”) both of which would make fine choices for a hungry dining party.

Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich

To say a few more things about this restaurant, I really appreciate the theming they did. When you walk in you’re given a plastic spherical bar with a rose on it. You tap this to the screen when you order and then it acts like a GPS so the servers can find you. The servers themselves roll the food out in covered serving carts that both look neat and keep the food warm. Speaking of neat, the place is broken up into three different dining rooms, Belle’s Library, the West Wing and the ballroom. I’m actually not sure which one we were in, but one of the other rooms featured Beast’s flower and the other had windows set up to make it look like it was a dark and stormy night (though it was raining that day, so maybe that’s what it was). Anyway, if you have a BATB fan in your life, they’ll love eating at Be Our Guest.

princess dinner

For dinner that day we hoofed it over to Epcot’s World Showcase for the Princess Storybook Dining at Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. Lu absolutely loved getting to meet and have her picture taken with Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella and Belle so it was worth it for that alone. It was also nice that they had a great drink menu and rad food like Traditional Kjøttkake also known as, “Norwegian Meatballs served with Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Lingonberry Sauce.” It’s like that stuff they have at Ikea, but roughly 7 billion times better, plus you get the added bonus of knowing you don’t have to put frustrating furniture together after eating. They also do a complimentary buffet called “Taste of Norway,” but I don’t remember much about it aside from a sweet brown cheese that half the table enjoyed and half was not into at all.

kat korra dinner I din't eat

Unfortunately, I was not feeling very well for our last full day at Disney. I had some weird stuff going on with my stomach that was probably compounded by drinking more coffee and beer than water while on vacation. Not smart, people, be sure to stay hydrated. I really wish I had because we went to Kouzzina by Kat Kora for dinner and it was one of the restaurants I was most interested in checking out going back to the early days of planning this trip. Unfortunately, the strong Greek smells and flavors did not work well with my wobbly tummy, so, even though I ordered the Briami — “Oven-roasted Vegetables with Oregano, topped with Greek Cheese, served with Herbed Orzo Pasta” — I was only able to look it, sigh and go back to the room to take a nap. So while the Disney trip didn’t end on a high culinary note for me personally, I’ve got to say that, overall I probably haven’t had a better week of meals ever. Also, get the Dining Plan if you can!

I Had One Of The Best Meals Of My Life At Barnaby’s In New Paltz

barnabys

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is a wonderful event held in and around the area I live in in New York where all participating restaurants offer a set menu for lunch and/or dinner with three or four options for a three course meal. While looking around for things to do last weekend while my parents visited and coming up with zero events, I stumbled upon the fact that we were right in the middle of Restaurant Week again. I did some looking around and saw that  a place in New Paltz called Barnaby’s Steakhouse was on the list and happened to be offering a pretty impressive line-up of appetizers, entrees and desserts for the $20.95 price tag. I scoped out a few other places, but decided on Barnaby’s not only because we’d never been there before, but also because it seemed like the most bang for the bucks. We headed up there on Saturday for a late lunch and man, was it a wonderful experience.

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I started off with the the Lobster Bisque partially because it sounded like the most intriguing of the appetizers on the list, but also because I figured it was the best value. The bisque itself had that wonderful richness that you get from the best bisques, but it also had a cream swirled throughout as a sweet corn and tarragon relish that really added a depth of flavor that made me want to dive into a vat of this and eat my way out.

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We all wound up going for the Grilled Petit Filet Mignon Steak for our entrees that came topped with “a crust of Gorgonzola cheese & herbed horseradish” that also came with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. The steak came perfectly cooked to medium and I probably could have cut through it with a fork. The gorgonzola and horseradish topping was a nice touch that didn’t overwhelm the solid flavors of the steak. The potatoes were good, clearly made in house and creamy, though I always compare these things with the ones my mom makes and they don’t hold up. I wasn’t into the creamed spinach, but that’s okay, I was already pretty full at this point. Of course, it wasn’t over yet. 

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I went with the Creme Brulee for desert and kind of regret it, not because it wasn’t good, but because I wound up being uncomfortably full the rest of the day. Also, even though I figured I wouldn’t worry about calories after eating such rich food, I did add everything up as best I could and was shocked at how many calories this dish added to the meal. If my rough calculations are correct it’s actually more calories than the steak! Anyway, the caramelized sugar was perfectly done and the creme was super nice and creamy.

I’m not that best at comparing meals in my head. If I like one, I remember liking it, but it doesn’t enter a ranking system or anything like that. But, I can tell when a meal really rockets past all the other ones and this was definitely one of those experiences. Aside from the one time I went to Peter Luger’s, I think this might be the best steak I’ve ever had in New York. It’s probably up there with the best steak experiences ever. Plus, it was all the better because I was with my family AND it was my mom’s first time eating a steak after years and years of being a vegetarian. There’s a lot of reasons she’s moving away from that, but I think the high quality of the food at Barnaby’s helped kickstart the process even more!

Second Christmas Remembered: Traditional Ruhlman’s French Onion Soup

The last thing I made for Second Christmas was French Onion Soup. It also happened to be the most complicated and worrisome of the group because you basically cook these onions for hours until they get to the right color. Because of the long cook time I was worried that I might let them cook too long or not enough, but thankfully I seemed to get it dead on and we had our French Onion Soup!

But, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. The recipe itself from Ruhlman’s Twenty is called Traditional French Onion Soup (page 75) actually comes with pictures which was really helpful for such a long-form dish. One thing I didn’t mention in the other posts is that I went for a solid no-meat meal because my mom is a vegetarian. When I mentioned I was making FOS, she asked about the beef broth and I told her it didn’t have any. I hadn’t read the full description of the recipe, but Ruhlman writes that a lot of FOS recipes call for broth, but that’s not how it was made in France where poorer houses wouldn’t use more-expensive broth when you can get a solid flavor from just cooking onions in a tablespoon of butter.

Of course, the key to this dish is the onions. I sliced up almost a full bag of white onions on the mandolin which was faster than cutting them by hand, but still felt kind of clunky. Anyone, those went into the Dutch oven with a tablespoon of butter and cooked for about four hours. After you get to the right shade of amber, you add in the water, taste and then alter with vinegar, salt, pepper and sherry to get the flavor you want. Then you put your dried-out bread on top and the cheese (I actually used the Emmenthaler shown in the post about Mac & Cheese from the same meal), pop that under the broiler and have FOS a few months later. I actually thought it wound up being a little sweeter than I usually like, but as a whole I thought it wound up being a really good dish. The whole meal might have had a lot of cheese and onions, but I think it worked well together! Happy belated Second Christmas!

Bonus Food Pics: French Onion Soup & A Ruben At Fox Fiddle

The week before last I didn’t write any posts here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. I played it coy a bit, but as I explained over on Pop Poppa in my Photo Diary posts, I was actually commuting into the city with my dad and mother-in-law to visit my wife who was in the hospital post-surgery. Everything went well and she’s back home healing up.

Of course, you’ve still got to eat and after a few days of hospital cafeteria food, we decided to head out and get something. We were originally going to go to Chickpea, but it happened to be pretty full and I saw the sign for Fox N Fiddle and redirected us thataway. It’s an Irish pub which meant there would be two things there that I wanted: non crappy food (or at least less crappy food, depending on how Irish it really was) and beer.

I wound up getting a few Samuel Adams’ winter seasonal beers, then had a crock of French Onion Soup and followed that up with a Ruben. I probably wasn’t the best judge of anything that day, but I thought both the soup and sandwich were pretty darn good. I left very satisfied and didn’t feel like it was too expensive, which can easily happen at places in NYC.

Soup’s Off

I love making soup, you guys. It’s one of the reasons I like fall so much, spending some time with a pot, some stock, vegetables and usually meat all mixing it up together on my stove. What’s not to like? Well, a lot if you’re a baby, apparently. As the weather turned cooler a few weeks back, I got really excited and broke out my copy of The Ultimate Soup Bible and started checking out new recipes to try. One week I made Cauliflower Cannellini & Fennel Soup (page 221) which you can see above  and the next I made Mediterranean Sausage & Pesto Soup (page 327) which is below. Neither blew my mind, but they were both good soups that made me feel warm and full, which is pretty much my criteria.

But, as I mentioned above, babies aren’t the biggest fans of soup. Even Lu, who’s gotten really good with her tiny utensils, didn’t find much to get excited about when presented with a mini bowl of soup. It’s something I didn’t even think of in my rush to get soup-ed up, but it either doesn’t look appetizing to her or she really wants to eat it herself which will just lead to a huge mess on our hands. I’m bummed out, but I’ve put soup on the backburner as far as meal planning goes for the time being (puns!).

Cooking Southern American Succotash Soup With Chicken

Being from Toledo, Ohio from parents who were both from Ohio, I had pretty limited exposure to southern food. We didn’t have a lot of barbecue places around from what I remember, though there are a number of ones in town now. And, as far as I knew, succotash was something only preceded by “sufferin'” in cartoon character exclamations. When I was flipping through the Chicken and Duck Soups chapter of The Ultimate Soup Bible, I stumbled upon a recipe for something called American Southern Succotash Soup With Chicken (page 296) that sounded pretty amazing. Anything with corn, bacon and chicken is aces in my book, so I decided to give it a whirl.

And it turned out pretty fantastic, plus the recipe isn’t all the difficult. You start off boiling some chicken breasts in chicken broth for bout 15 minutes. While those were going, I got to work on prep, chopping up a few strips of bacon, two onions and some parsley. When that was good to go, I started making the base of the soup which involved cooking the onions in butter for a handful of minutes. To that I added the bacon. My wife doesn’t really like squishy bacon in soups, so I tried to get it a little crispier. You then add in some flour to thicken, the hot stock from the chicken (which had been removed after it was done cooking and set aside for chopping) and some corn.

My grocery store didn’t have fresh corn, which was weird because they did a few weeks ago, so I went with frozen. You also add some milk and let that cook for about 15 minutes. Then you add in the cut up chicken, the lima beans and the rest of the milk and you are ready to go. I’m sure it would have been even better with fresh corn, but I think it turned out really well. It was thick and creamy without using cream, which I appreciated, but did have bacon and beans and chicken which all mingled together in a very satisfying and filling meal. Bonus points for being equally good if not better when reheated. Definitely give this one a try when you’ve got a colder day on your hands this summer.

Cooking A Potage Of Yellow Split Peas

This recipe is based on the Potage of Lentils recipe from The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 208), which I didn’t intend to put a spin on, but I mistakenly thought I had lentils in my pantry when instead I had yellow split peas. After I realized I goofed up a bit, I figured I’d give the whole thing a shot with the yellow split peas and you know what? It turned out pretty good.

Like a lot of soups, this one was mostly prep followed by putting things in the pot in the right order. I started off chopping up celery carrots, garlic and potato even though chopped onions were the first thing that actually went into the hot olive oil in the pot. After all that cooked for a few minutes, I added in the yellow split peas and vegetable broth and simmered for 30 minutes.

At that point, I tossed in two bay leaves, a halved lemon and more garlic. This cooked for ten minutes before removing the lemons and bay leaves, squeezing the juice from another lemon in and giving the whole thing a stir. I let it cool down a bit and then transferred all the soup into the food processor and gave it whirl (heh). Once that was all set, I returned it to the pot and added cumin, some green Tobasco, salt and pepper. Boom, done.

This turned out to be a great little soup that worked well with my unintended tampering. It kind of reminded me of a soupier hummus, but with more citrus zing. We had this back when we were getting a pretty brutal cold snap a few weeks back, but I think I’ll definitely give it another shot when the weather turns cold again. I don’t know about you guys, but I just can’t wrap my head around soup in the summer.

Cooking Tortellini Soup

I’ll be honest, I have no idea where the basis of this recipe came from. It’s one I copied from somewhere online and pasted before printing off and putting in a binder years ago. So, I’m sorry if I’m ripping someone off. I did change and add a few things this time around and guess that’s probably enough to make a difference. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 10 oz. cans of chicken broth, low sodium
8 oz. package of tortellini (I went with cheese, possibly quadruple cheese)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bunch spinach
6 leaves of basil
1 roaster chicken

First up, separate the chicken from the roaster. You could also grill and chop chicken, but I wanted bones for some stock and went this route.

Meanwhile, heat the oik in your pot and saute the garlic for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and tortellini and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Mix in Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper. Simmer until tortellini are just tender. Stir in tomatoes, spinach basil and chicken. Simmer for 2 more minutes.

That’s it. I vaguely remember making this year and years ago, but without the chicken and really enjoying it. I wanted to get some protein in there, hence the chopped up bird. I wasn’t sure if the stewed tomatoes should go in with or without being drained, I decided not to and I think it helped. The only problem I had is that the noodles and meat soaked up a lot of the broth, turning this into more of a pasta dish with a chicken broth sauce, really. I’d probably add even more chicken stock next time and would be even happier with the results.

This is a really easy meal to throw together, especially if you have a few things like spinach and basil lying around from an earlier recipe. It also has the fortunate bonus of being tasty, especially if you’re  fan of tortellini.

Cooking Tex Mex Chicken Taco Soup

For some reason while I was making this Food Network recipe for Tex Mex Chicken Taco Soup, I was under the impression that I was making chili. I should have known that it wasn’t when the recipe said it only takes 45 minutes to make…and by actually reading the title.

Anyway, I followed the recipe as it’s written with a few changes. I used low fat cream cheese to cut down on some of the calories. I also grilled the chicken on the George Foreman instead of boiling it. For what it’s worth, I used Old El Paso Mild Taco Seasoning and half a jar each of Pace Salsa Verde and Pace Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salsa that I had left over from various recipes and snack-fests.

I almost didn’t add the cream cheese mixture into the soup because I didn’t want it to get to thick or possibly screw up the good thing I had going, so I asked my wife. She said to pour it in and see how it came out. Good thing I listened to her because we wound up with a nice creamy, spicy soup with nice corn and hominy accents. You can really have fun with this recipe by playing around with different beans, meats and salsa.