Category Archives: stew

Asian Style Chicken Soup I Make Over & Over Again

Ginseng Chicken Soup Version
This is my super bowl for Super Bowl: the total winner and ultimate energy booster. Each time I make this soup I can’t get enough of it (one hundred percent serious). The exact name of it is: Ginseng Chicken Soup (Samgyetang in Korean). There is also a Chinese variety of this soup called ‘medicinal’or ‘healing’ soup for cough. If you have cold or the flu, a bowl of this soup may be your best medicine. I first made it few years ago curious about the idea of the rice stuffing, clear broth and all the new ingredients (to me) in it like ginseng and jujubes (Chinese dried dates). 
Tosokchon Restaurant in Seoul via Kampungboycitygal

Traditionally this soup is served in Korea in summer to engineer spontaneous sweating and counter-balance the heat.  For me, there’s no season for it. I like it rain or shine and find it specifically intensely nourishing during our 6 months-long Canadian winter-cold weather. It’s also not just a soup, but a bowl of a wonderful complete meal: with remarkably different nuances in taste, highly aromatic clear stock, mouth-watering chicken and delicate congee-like mix of rice that would absorb the flavors of broth and chicken and the sweetness of dates and goji berries. The ginseng adds a subtle bitter taste (barely noticeable), while garlic and chestnuts complete this insanely tasty composition with zero of in-your-face bold flavor. Shortly, it tastes like the king of the chicken soup for soul to me (if there’s such thing) evoking warm and fuzzy feeling (that lasts for a few hours after) almost instantly and creating the memory of almost luxurious meal.

In Korea this soup is a symbol of attainment. The recipe goes well into the depth of Korean history itself and, as usually for such case there are multiple varieties of this dish. A few known restaurants in Seoul are specialized in just serving this soup to celebrate and honor Korean food heritage (see above image). The strictly authentic version of this Koreans dish asks for exactly 49-days young old free range chicken and 4-years old Geumsan cultivated ginseng. Other players are:  glutinous rice, Jujubes (Chinese dates), chestnuts/pine nuts, wolf berries (goji), garlic and sometimes ginger, which might sound like a strange lineup of ingredients, but ultimately results in the better, more comforting chicken soup you ever tried.
Ginseng Chicken Soup Ingredients
The downside of this dish is that it requires a trip to the Asian supermarket, as you won’t find most of the ingredients in your local grocery. On the upside, any young free range chicken would be good for this recipe (I use Cornish hen most of the time). The Silkie black chicken however is considered to be the best for this dish in Korea (again, only available in Asian supermarkets).
Silky Chicken via Wikimedia Commons
Black Chicken Ginseng Soup
I kind of slightly cringe at the color of it and its other properties: black skin and bones, blue earlobes, five toes on each foot (all other chicken have just four), fluffy white plumage that feels like silk. No kidding, it reminds me of voodoo sacrifice I’ve seen in Havana or the Pompeii museum artifacts. I suggest you trip over the YUK thing in advance if you are ready to be a good chef: it’s sold with its feet and head still on.  I admit the color of the silkie chic is an acquired thing. But it tastes truly outstanding and decadent, like no other chicken I’ve tried.
Silky Black Chicken Ginseng Soup
For the best results, please apply the following tips:
Use free range chicken like Cornish hen or black Silkie. One chicken is plenty for two generous portions, although one super-hungry adult can eat it all by himself.
Thaw it in a fridge overnight if necessary, rinse and pat/dry well. Although it’s not necessary, I also scald the stuffed chicken with boiling water prior to covering it with boiled water to ensure the clean/clear stock.
I cooked this dish in pans and clay/ceramic pots, on the stove and in the oven. I find the tastiest version is coming for the oven cooked chicken in the clay/ceramic pot or Dutch oven.
Soak rice mixed with dried ingredients in cold water for 20 minutes; drain and mix with goji berries, few jujubes (I use them not  pitted, but you can remove pits if wish be) and garlic.
Don’t over-stuff the chicken cavity: rice will expand during the cooking process and might break the seal if it is overstuffed.
Stuffing Chicken with Rice, goji berries, jujubes and garlic for Ginseng Chicken Soup
Optionally, I add a few 2 inch pieces of dried kombu (Japanese kelp seaweed) in the stock for the boost of umami and extra layer of favor.
Dried Kombu Kelp Seaweed
Finally, I also add a small shallot (gives extra flavor and benefit) and a bunch of parsley at the end (for clear stock): discard both before serving.
Don’t overcook the chicken: it has to fall of the bone, but still keep the shape intact (the smaller is the hen the less it will take to cook).
When ready to serve, season chicken with minced scallions and a dash of Sriracha for some heat (optional).  Serve with quality salt on a side to dip the chicken. You can also add some fresh bok choy into the soup once is still out of the oven piping hot.  
Ginseng Chicken Soup Garden Style
This dish is very forgiving. One day I really craved it, but only had Cornish hen: no ginseng, jujubes, sweet rice or other exotic ingredients. I did have goji berries and chestnuts. I also had Arborio/jasmine rice and regular dried dates in my pantry; and some fresh parsley roots, green peas, scallions and chives from the garden, plus ginger. I decided to pull it off anyways with what I had at hand and it worked marvelously.  The soup still got a very special delicate aroma, tasted divine and was devoured in a snap even without added benefits of missing ginseng.
Ginseng Chicken Soup Steps
The fresh ginseng is the most expensive ingredient in the recipe. Not to be discouraged: for $6.00-$8.00 you get enough of it for at least three batches. It can last in the fridge (in a closed plastic container) for up to 6 months (that’s how potent it is!).
Fresh American Ginseng
Once I didn’t have the fresh ginseng and used a package of dried one mixed in with other herbs designed to flavor this soup from the Asian supermarket (price is between $3.00 -$4.00) called Ginseng Soup Mix (FDA approved, HA!). It had some extra herbs like dried lotus seeds, astragalus and angelica roots, etc. – all adding to the healing powers of the dish. It worked very well too.
Ginseng Soup Dried Mix from Kim Phat Asian Supermarket
A few final words about the benefits of Samgyetang (Korean Chicken Ginger Soup. Due to its powerful ingredients, this dish (I compiled the nutritional data from different legit sources):
Promotes a sense of well-being;
Helps prevent and fight colds and flu;
Has a powerful diuretic action supporting healthy kidney function;
Helps detox, alkalize the body;
Promotes efficient metabolism, tissue growth and repair (it is believed to strengthen stomach lining and digestive track);
Helps lower blood cholesterol, improve blood circulation and calm the nerves;
Helps strengthen and boost the immune system;
Helps maintain energy levels and increases potency (considered to be a sex booster in Korea, it’s often served to the newlyweds).
Did I just honor myself with a Gangham merit badge for this recipe? Yes, please.
Psy, Gangham Style, New Year’s Eve 2013
Although, I feel more like Ashley MacIsaac’s fiddle in the Last Girl on Earth when/upon eating this soup. I hope this article will inspire you for a little thrill of discovery and the new energy booster you will find with this dish. FYI, the Silkie black chicken often goes on special between Western and Chinese New Year – don’t miss the chance to try it. Turn it on, you won’t regret it!
Ginseng Chicken Korean Soup
CHICKEN GINSENG HEALING SOUP
Ingredients:
1 Cornish or Silky black hen (about 1.5 pounds)
1 fresh American ginseng root, washed
½ cup sweet (glutinous) rice
2 tbsp goji berries (dried wolf berries)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 chestnuts, shelled
8 jujubes (Chinese dried dates, pitted if necessary)
1 knob (1-2 inch) of ginger
3 scallions, white part OR 1 shallot
2 dried kombu (kelp seaweed) pieces (optional)
5-6 cups of boiling spring water
1 bunch of fresh parsley (optional)
Garnish & Serving:
2 green scallions, minced
2-3 baby bok choy or other Asian green
Sea salt and pepper served on a side for dipping
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.*
Rub the chicken generously with sea salt inside out. Pat dry with paper towels and let air dry for 30 minutes. In the meantime, soak the rice in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain the rice and mix with 1 tablespoon of goji berries, two garlic cloves, 4 jujubes and 4 chestnuts. Stuff the chicken cavity with the rice mix. Use the toothpick to secure/stitch the cavity, OR, if not enough skin close the cavity with chicken feet. Optionally, place the chicken on the heat-proof plate in the clean sink and scald with boiling water (make sure to direct the water away from the cavity seal). Place it carefully into a clay/ceramic pot or Dutch oven. Place the ginseng root and remaining garlic, goji and jujubes around the chicken. Add ginger, scallions/shallot and kombu. Bring 5-6 cups of water to boil and pour over the chicken carefully. Cover with foil+lid and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350F and cook for 1 ½ hour. Remove from the oven and add the parsley bouquet. Return to the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let the soup sit for 10 minutes before serving. Discard the parsley and the toothpick. Cut the chicken in half with paring knife without removing it from the pot. Place the chicken halves in serving bowls, ladle the broth with rice over. Add bok choy.  Garnish with green scallions. Serve immediately with sea salt on a side to dip the chicken pieces.
*For the stove method, bring the soup to boil upon assembling, turn the heat to simmer and cook covered for 1hour and 45 minutes.

Hemingway Champagne & Cuban Rabbit Fricassee Recipe

With the whooping record of 3 million tourists this year and a hope for the end of the US embargo of 50 years, Cubans have something special to celebrate this New Year’s Eve. And while my festive rabbit stew (no need to advertise this light and savory Caribbean dish) is piping in the oven, I decided to drop a line to reflect on our most recent travel to Havana last summer and, particularly, the drink called Hemingway Champagne.


‘I drink to make other people more interesting,’ says the quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway. That’s quite an understatement from the celebrated writer known for his way around the women, best bars and drinks from Paris to Madrid, from Key West to Havana. A well-known fact: drinks, bars and people in them helped Hemingway to create his characters and add the depth and thrill to his prose. In a letter to poet MacLeish he explained that: ‘It’s good for us both to lay off the old liquor too; but by God it’s dull work doing it. I’d like to hunt and fish the rest of my life and be just drunk enough to sleep well every night… But instead I’ve got to write, and boil the liquor out to be able to write my best, and get my sensitivity back to be able to write where (I) have sort of burned it away in war. Hell of a job.’

I’m a big fan of Hemingway’s works, so when we went to Havana last summer my first move was to go in the footsteps of ‘Papa’.  Obviously, I’m talking about the historical bars with character, where Hemingway used to spend his afternoons to kick start his muse during those good 20 years of his Cuban residence. Let’s put some Buena Vista Club on and go for a little Havana Vieja journey.

We hit the streets of Havana on one excruciatingly hot summer day to see what’s up with Hemingway’s Caribbean drinking memorabilia in the old city.  The first stop was at recently re-opened Sloppy Joe’s seafood and cocktail bar featured in the movie Our Man in Havana, which reopened its doors in 2013 after being closed for 48 years. Hemingway used to hang out there with many other celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Nat King Cole, Ted Williams, Errol Flynn and Gary Cooper. Back in the 50s the bar was also a prototype of the not less famous Sloppy Joe’s in the Key West I featured in this post.

We stepped into the freshly painted sleek bar décor and ordered Cuban pork sandwiches with sweet potato fries and ‘Cuba Libre’ cocktail they offered to go with the sandwich (from ‘To Have and Have Not’).  I loved the freshly re-constructed Art Deco Miami-style flair about the area, the cleanness inside out and the fast service. Don’t forget, this place was a complete ruin for 48 years, so one should not under-estimate the effort of the Cuban government and of course the Cuban expats to reconstitute the place. Hopefully, one day it will completely return to its glory – it definitely has now a potential for that.    

Corner of Zulueta (252) e/Animas and Virtudes, Old Havana, Cuba

Armed with the few heavy calories we headed to find the El Floridita, almost two hundred years old fish and cocktail bar at the corner of Obispo and Monserrate streets, where Hemingway used to team up with the famous Cuban bartender Constante Ribailagua to create his Papa Doble Daiquiri and other signature drinks. 

After few minutes walk through the Park Central which felt like a century due to the heat and the crowds of hookers of all ages and persuasion chasing us (surprisingly, not to offer their services, but just to ask for a soap or a tooth brush: sadly, YES, that’s how desperate is current Cuban’s economy nowadays), we managed to find the El Floridita bar. 

The frozen daiquiri tasted good and refreshing indeed, although it was three times more expensive than at any other bar in Cuba (you’ve gotta pay premium for the name and I have no problem with that). The life size bronze statue of Hemingway was leaning over the bar to remind that it used to be his haunt. However, the place didn’t feel like IT and was too crowded with tourists to feel comfortable.
ADDRESS: El Floridita
Corner of Obispo (esq. 557) and Monserrate Streets
Hours: 11 AM till midnight 

Hemingway’s Photo via Wiki

Next: ‘My mojito in La Bodegita, my daiquiri in El Floridita’, and so we followed Hemingway’s tip to try the best Mojito in Havana at La Bodeguita del Medio. When we reached the place, it was packed with locals, tourists, artists and musicians all drenching in sweat (forget the conditioner – it’s too much of a luxury in most places in Havana). We had to literally elbow-fight to get through to the counter to have a speedy Mojito, which didn’t much differ from any other Mojito you pay eight-plus pesos in the rest of Habana Vieja.  The spirit of Papa was nowhere felt.  I must admit though, the place did have character with all the musicians, graffiti and surroundings (playing kids, puddles of urine, etc.) as opposed to two previous bars. Oddly enough though, it was so far my least favorite. 
ADDRESS: La Bodeguita del Medio
206 Calle Empedrado 206 (between Cuba and San Ignacio Streets), Old Havana, Cuba
Hours: Noon till midnight

Our final stop of the day was Hotel Ambos Mundos at the corner of Obispo and Mercaderes, where Hemingway spent seven years of his life in the 30ies. I was excited to see his room on the upper 5th floor, his typewriter and the views of the Old Havana and the harbor sea that inspired him daily. 

It was a bummer to see the sign ‘Hemingway’s room is closed for visitors’ next to the old elevators, of which the guards were very protective of. I was beginning to feel that the ‘lost generation’ term was actually quite literate. Hopeless to find any leftover of the spirit of Hemingway, we went through the hall with the walls covered with fading cheerless images of the writer and his life in Cuba. 

The uniform-dressed woman at the lobby desk had a major presence signifying that if we would like to find some trace of Hemingway, we’d rather go back home and read a book about him. We retreated to the empty bar in the lobby and just sat there with the gloom of disappointed kids waiting for the bartender to come… 

Catching our pointless glare, the bartender asked if we would like to try some Hemingway Champagne. We agreed. In a gesture of encouragement, he procured a bottle of absinthe from under the counter and poured some of it in the flutes. He then topped them with the iced champagne and handed us the milky mix right away. Our disappointment evanesced the minute we took a sip of that drink. ‘OMG, this is where he is,’ I realized suddenly – ‘HE IS the DRINK in this sweaty, ruined, wonderful Havana!’  
ADDRESS: Ambos Mundos Hotel /Bar

153 Calle Obispo, Old Havana, Cuba

And this is how we scored our ‘in the footsteps of Hemingway’s cocktails game’ that day. I must say it was a tough mix of alcohols. ‘You can’t handle it, little mama,’ was the last thought in my head (with the voice of Ron Burgundy (aka Will Ferrel) before I passed out in the hotel room that afternoon. Clearly, the ‘Death in the Afternoon’ (alternative name of this drink) is an acquired-taste type of the cocktail, at least in my case.  Ernest Hemingway created this drink further to his non-fiction ‘Death in the Afternoon’ about Spanish bullfighting and it was later published in the 1935 collection of celebrity cocktail recipes. His instructions were: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” If you feel like trying it, I suggest you go for the legal absinthe alternative for this drink, Pernod, in the same proportion.

Tonight we’re going to drink simple but elegant Crémant d’Alsace. There will be no Hemingway Champagne. So why was I telling you all that? Definitely, not to encourage you drinking. Because it’s the New Year’s Eve, many are going to the most popular Caribbean destination; and it’s time to have fun, reflect on 2014 and celebrate the miraculous.  There will be an upscale Cuban dish on our table though: a wonderful one-pot rabbit fricassee full of Creole flavors and sunshine.  

Lean, healthy, light, highly aromatic: it makes you feel like dancing all night long – no wonder Cubans have the historic affinity for the rabbit dishes (from Batista to Castro). 
Note for Paleo and Gluten Free people: skip dusting the rabbit in flour and proceed with browning without it.

Happy New Year Everyone – Peace on Earth!

***

CUBAN STYLE RABBIT FRICASSEE

Yields : 6 servings
Ingredients :
1 (about 3 lbs) rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces
3-4 tbsp flour
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp curry powder
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
2-3 tbsp olive oil
6-8 strips of bacon cut in cubes
1 tbsp paprika
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
¼ tsp saffron powder (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
2 ½ cups chicken stock or water
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup capers, drained
1 cup raisins
¼ cup green pitted olives, whole or chopped
1 can (10 oz) green peas, drained
Salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Season the rabbit pieces generously with salt and pepper. Mix the flour with thyme and curry powder and cover the rabbit pieces with it (use the Ziploc bag if necessary to evenly distribute the flour mix). Heat the butter and olive oil in the deep skillet to medium high, place the rabbit pieces and brown on all sides for about 6-7 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to the Dutch oven.
Add the bacon to the skillet and brown on medium high for a few minutes. Distribute bacon pieces over the rabbit. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bring the skillet to the high heat. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, saffron and cumin to the skillet for 2-3 minutes mixing vigorously. Add diced tomatoes and wine, mix well. Add the onion-tomatoes mixture to the rabbit-bacon mix. Drizzle with lemon juice. Add bay leaf.  Pour the hot chicken stock or water over the rabbit and bring to boil.
Cover the casserole with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 350F and continue baking for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to boil. Simmer for 3 minutes and drain the water. Set aside.
Remove the casserole from the oven, check the seasoning. Add parboiled potatoes, capers, raisins and olives. Cover with foil and return the casserole to the oven and cook for another 30 minutes.
Check the rabbit for tenderness: the meat should be starting to fall off the bone when it’s ready.  Stir in frozen green peas and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes uncovered.

Remove from the oven, check the seasoning and serve immediately.

No Fuss Coq Au Vin

”Have you ever tried Coq au Vin?” ”No, but I once let an Italian put his hand up my jumper on the back seat of his Fiat…” Anglophones truly love the play of French words in this dish. But, whatever the jokes are, Coq au Vin (rooster in wine) continues to tickle the taste buds and enthrall the world’s pickiest eaters through the centuries.

And maybe it’s not so bad that this French classic is so ‘’oxymoronic’’ – for sure it helps to create certain gastronomic enigma à propos de complexity of the dish. Which in fact is very simple to make and quite inexpensive if you adjust the ingredients set to create a healthy and easy weeknight meal. In this one I traded rooster for chicken, Burgundy for a good quality dry red wine (Cahors), and pearl onions for a regular yellow onion (the last one is REALLY a good idea when you want to have a quick supper without spending some extra 30 minutes peeling pearl onions). 

I also skipped the roux turning it into a gluten free meal (the sauce turned thick enough without any flour in it and, yes, turned into a gel comme il faut when placed in the fridge). The result: my very FRENCH (Canadian) hubby devoured it in seconds without even noticing there were no pearl onions in it, which are usually a big deal for him.  And if this did not convince you yet, please also note that for a true comfort dish like this, it is VERY low in calories. At different times, I served it with egg or rice noodles, with roasted or mashed potatoes, as well as with potato leek gratin, but my favorite part is just dipping the crusty bread in that savory wine sauce that is so typical in taste to this particular dish. HEAVENLY!
Although many historically attribute the origin of Coq au Vin to Burgundy region of France, rumor has it the Caesar’s cook made it when Romans were battling the Gauls (at that time Romans were very well established in the area of modern Southern France and they really liked local wine). The Gauls sent Caesar a scrawny rooster as a message of defiance. Caesar ordered to cook the rooster in wine and herbs and invited the Gauls to eat it to demonstrating the overwhelming sophistication of the Romans… Or so it goes… But most agree that Coq au Vin existed as a rustic dish long before that and was a way for peasants to recycle an old rooster or an old egg-laying hen by slow cooking in wine and herbs.  
Today Coq au Vin is made with cuts of chicken from hen or capon and has many designations depending on a wine being used: Alsacienne (with Riesling), Nuitonne (with Côte de Nuits), Jurassienne (with Arbois rosé), etc. My twist relates to Quercynoise version and table travels me to the beautiful town of Cahors where I tried Coq au Vin for the first time. It was made with a real cockerel (rooster) and Cahors wine; and included true Quercy-Perigord ingredients: fresh ceps wild mushrooms and duck fat. Needless to say, that a splash of Armagnac flambé was applied to the browning process in this version… The taste of it comes back to me each time I am looking at the pictures or am thinking of that travel…  
Again, this is a speedy version of the Coq au Vin, with no ceps or duck fat in it, but as hearty as the dish can be. The stock, wine, mushroom & bacon sauce imbues chicken and veggies with the iconic flavor during slow cooking transforming any cheapest piece of commercial chicken into a little French culinary voyage. Free range chicken however would deliver much tastier results, but you already know it. 
And, of course, if you are a true admirer of ‘’Mastering the Art of French Cooking’’ and are not looking for any tasty ersatz, I suggest you use Julia Child’s recipe or the version of the host of the Iron Chef of America, both of which are designed to turn you into a real connoisseur of the dish. 
 Cheers to all and happy French cooking!
***
NO FUSS COQ AU VIN
Yields 4 servings
Ingredients:
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into bite size
3 lbs chicken thighs and drums (8+), skin on
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots peeled and cut into cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. butter
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups dry red wine
6-8 fresh parsley springs, minced
3-4 scallions, minced
¼ kosher salt (or to taste)
¼ freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
In a large skillet, brown bacon bits, remove them to the paper towel and set aside while reserving the bacon grease in the skillet to brown the chicken. Add chicken pieces skin side down and sear them on the medium high heat until golden brown on all sides for about 6-8 minutes each side.  Transfer chicken to the Dutch oven or another casserole dish.  Add onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaves and thyme to skillet and continue sautéing for about 6 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Transfer the mix to the casserole to cover the chicken pieces. In the still hot skillet, add butter, mushrooms and shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add wine and broth to the skillet, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens a little bit (5 minutes). Add seasoning, mix well and pour over the chicken in the casserole dish. Simmer or bake for 30-40 minutes at 350F. During the cooking process, carefully skim off and discard any fat from the surface with the spoon. After 30 minutes of simmering, verify the seasoning, add chopped parsley and scallions and give it another 10 minutes of simmer. Serve hot with roasted/mashed potatoes or egg noodles and crusty bread on the side. Enjoy!

 

Fish Chowder

Oprah Winfrey has cited this fish chowder recipe as President Kennedy’s Favorite Chowder. Jackie, the First Lady, said it was ”one of her husband’s favorite American recipes for fish, which he frequently enjoyed”.
via Wikimedia Commons
Well, last night I had 2 lbs pack of (sustainable) blue cod thawing in my fridge waiting for me to just do this dish. As simple as it looks, this chowder is a wonderful showcase for any fresh catch, but my experience shows that frozen filleted fish can do perfectly well in it on a chilly mid-March day (as long as it’s of a good quality). A trick to prevent even slight mushiness while thawing fish, is to never let it to be fully defrosted. I tried this chowder with different kind of fish: haddock (for which the recipe calls), sea bass, ocean perch, cod – they all worked well – just make sure that fish is mildly -flavored, firm and not fatty (i.e. keep your mackerel or bluefish for the grill). Here are the steps on how to prepare the fish chowder:
Personally, I like the lightness of this dish: it has a mild fish taste and is easy on fat or roux (there is no heavy cream or flour in it). Bacon bits make a tasty decadent garnish, however, you may wish to replace them with just some chopped parsley.  
This recipe might not be a knockout compared to the upscale varieties of chowder available today. But it is definitely a good-looking and tasting comfort food, the reason why it found its place in the menu of the White House in its ’60s heyday. Feel free to layer it with wine, seafood, spices and herbs of your choice to turn it into something that will become YOUR favorite. In my case, I just added a pinch of nutmeg and a splash of Sauvignon Blanc. When serving, I paired the dish with a glass of the same wine:
Mrs. Kennedy called this dish New England Chowder, however a quick glance into the history reveals that the same recipe can be called old Irish Chowder, Canadian Sioux Indian Fish Chowder and many more. One thing is for sure, the word ”chowda” came to New England from Newfoundland in the days when Celtic Breton fishermen would throw the daily catch into a boiling pot along with other available food.
Newfoundland before and today via Wikimedia

Whether this dish has travelled to Newfoundland from the Ireland, England, Brittany or any other place, it has truly become one of the early spring staples in my family.

Finally, here is an old Irish fish chowder recipe-poemone chef fella digged out to put in his blog:
And now, back to the Jackie Kennedy’s fish chowder recipe:
NEW ENGLAND FISH CHOWDER
Serves 6.
Ingredients:
2 lbs haddock fillets (or other non-fatty white fish, such as: perch, pollock, grouper, cod)
2 cups water
2 oz diced salt pork lard
2 onions chopped
4 large potatoes, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 quart milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (for simmering fish)
1/2 teaspoon salt (for sauteing veggies)
freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
fresh parsley for garnish, finely chopped
Instructions:
Cover the fish with 2 cups of water, bring to boil, add salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain. Reserve fish broth. Brake the fish in coarse chunks, removing bones if any.
Saute diced pork until crisp, remove and reserve half of the pork. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add potatoes, celery, bay leaf, salt, pepper and keep sauteing on low-to-medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add fish, pinch of nutmeg and a good splash of white wine to the mix, raise the heat and give it a quick stir.
Transfer the mix into a large pan, pour in reserved broth, add some boiling water to make 3 cups of liquid. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add milk and butter. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve sprinkled with the rest of the diced reserved crisp pork, or just garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Adapted from: http://www.oprah.com/
***
Happy St-Patrick and I am off to the parade…
via Wikimedia Commons
Today & in 1909: any similarity?

Erin go bragh!

Easy Cassoulet à Ma Façon

Yesterday I was emptying my freezer in celebration of the Lent (which has already begun, but never mind) and here is what I found among many strange things you sometimes can find in your freezer: 1 duck leg, 1 chicken leg and a small batch of chorizo sausages. Does it ring a bell? For me it was a direct order to go and pre-soak the beans for a hearty cassoulet, which would be hard to beat in this cold, grey and wet Quebec weather.

Three cities in France are in parental competition for the birth of Cassoulet: Carcassonne, Toulouse and Castelnaudary.
Roughly, Castelnaudary claims to be the world capital of the version with duck or goose confit, while Toulouse and Carcassonne have their variations of lamb and pork ingredients.

The one I will never forget I tried in the port of Canal du Midi: was the duck confit variety, hence the Castelnaudary version appeals to me most and the duck leg became quintessential part of this dish to me. If you have any duck confit already prepared in your fridge, feel free to use it. Chicken legs would be an OK replacement for the student budget. Here is a classic recipe from the place of origin (sorry, its in French):

via Wikimedia Commons
And now, here is my twist on the recipe. First, French it up by boiling the beans with the onion pierced with cloves. While the beans are cooking, brown the duck and chicken legs along with sausages (mild chorizo or Polish kielbasa are the best choices for this dish) with a head of a garlic halfed. Deglazing with wine adds a layer of taste. Mix the beans, meats and veggies and cover with broth and tomato sauce.
The herbs from Provence successfully complete the symphony and your dish is ready to go to the oven. Special note about the crumbs: in the classic recipe topping dish with the crumbs is a must and you have to press it dish down 7 times during cooking. In my version I skip it for caloric reasons, but you are still welcome to use it if you want. Once ready, serve hot with a glass of Chateauneuf du Pape or Cahors.
Since it is called an easy recipe (which I also tend to like leaner), I also skipped the lard, pork and pork rind ingredients. By the way, you can easily turn this recipe into completely vegetarian by omitting all kinds of meat in it, however, it will not be a cassoulet anymore, as the major flavor of this dish is coming from the combination of the meat ingredients and beans mingled during slow cooking. No matter how hard you will try to cut on fat or calories, Cassoulet is so rich that usually you will have some leftovers. One of the ways to re-use them next day is to turn them into some healthy burritos.
Get your favorite tortillas and few slices of cheese; give a quick stir to sliced green pepper, onion and garlic; make a wrap with all the ingredients and bake it in the oven for a few minutes. Add a little cucumber, radish, avocado salad and a choice of yogurt and salsa and, voila, a healthy, nutritious and balanced meal is ready!
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EASY CASSOULET
Ingredients:
1 lb white beans
1 onion pierced with 2-3 cloves
1 duck leg
1 chicken leg
1/2 lb chorizo sausage or kielbasa cut into 1/2” slices
1 garlic head cut in half
1/3 cup of white wine to deglaze
1 carrot coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk coarsely chopped
2 cups tomato sauce or coulis or 1 can (15 oz) of diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry thyme
1 teaspoon of dry sage
2 bay leaves
pinch of chilli peppers
1/2 cup bread crumbs (optional)
Instructions:
Soak beans overnight or 6-8 hours before cooking. Drain, rinse, cover with water, add a small onion pierced with a few cloves and salt and simmer for about 1 hour or until al dente. Discard the onion.
Preheat the oven to 300F
Season the duck leg, the chicken leg with salt and pepper and brown in olive oil for about 5 minutes each side, then add sausages and 1 garlic head cut in half and continue browning for another 10-12 minutes to almost ”done” state. Add a good splash of wine to deglaze, then remove from pan and put aside. Add carrots and celery to the dry pan and brown them slightly. In the meantime, cut the browned meat in coarse pieces.
Mix all the ingredients: beans, meat and veggies in the Dutch oven, add the tomato sauce, the chicken broth and the herbs. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 1hour. Remove the cover, sprinkle with bread crumbs (if using) and put back in the oven for about 1/2 hour or until the beans began to split and the broth has thickened. When ready, mix carefully discarding bay leaves and garlic head, and serve immediately.