Editor’s Note: This is a post contains TWO recipes: how to make dashi, traditional Japanese Sea Broth and non-traditional miso soup. I must admit this post was hard to write with all the different processes happening; poaching chicken, making dashi, adding miso. I’m not a professional recipe writer. So if you have a question or need me to clarify, please say so in the comments! Thanks-Christina
I’ve been stuck in a squash or tomato soup rut. The clock was ticking down until Soup Swap 2011 and I had no idea what I was going to create. When the email “conversation” was brewing between Sarah, Amanda, and Alexis; I quickly realized that my ideas (my comfort zone) were taken.
While shopping for a various “Miles food”, i.e. coconut milk yogurt, Udi’s Bread, Earth Balance Soy & Dairy free spread, teff/quinoa/coconut flours and Wayfare Foods‘s faux-cheese mexi-flavor, I saw it…
Cook’s Illustrated special issue on Soups & Stews.
Ahhhhhhhh yeah! Inspiration. So there I was, in Honest Weight Food Co-Op, already buying expensive allergy-friendly foods and now also an 8 dollar (!!!) copy of Cook’s Illustrated for inspiration.
When I got to page 12, the words “Miso Soup” jumped off the page and french-kissed me. Whoa. That’s one forward soup recipe. Seriously, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just so happened to have two jars of locally fermented non-soybean miso paste from South River Co. sitting in the back of my refrigerator unopened! I had Azuki Bean and Chickpea waiting patiently for their owner to figure out how to use them. Bingo! Just what I needed to bring the Soup Swap 2011 to the next level-a food project challenge! I had never made miso soup, from scratch. I’ve made the rip-open-a-single-serve-package type. Dashi…what?
What I love about Cook’s Illustrated is its dedication to dissecting a single recipe; the process, the ingredients, the equipment. Its a no-frills kind of magazine for cooking. Serious cooking. That’s it. So I read the story, by Elizabeth Germain, on the process of making the dashi, broth in Japanese, the soup and set off to make my own version that would be Miles-friendly (no soybean = no tofu). As a side note, he’s obsessed with cooking and currently loves soup because Ratatoille loves soup. (For anyone wanting to give his movie a try with the preschool-set, we skip the first 13 minutes due to the rural France Grandma with the shotgun, after that it’s all cooking all the time!).
Let me tell you right from the beginning that Miso Soup is relatively simple and quick to make. I’m not saying that you can use stuff already in your pantry, even I had to run out and buy speciality products, but once you have garnered all the ingredients the process is painless and will produce a deeply complex, rich and satisfying soup. What’s even more amazing is that South River Co.’s miso is amazing. I used the Chickpea miso paste, seen above, for this soup and the added bonus of this carefully crafted food is the teeny chickpeas and brown rice dancing in your soup when its time to eat! What I did to get around the “no tofu” situation is to create a chicken noodle soup, minus the noodle since there was brown rice in the miso and substituted the typical broth for dashi. The result was fantastic, I’m hoping you will give this a try.
First, the poached chicken was a happy mistake. I forgot to defrost my Brookside Farm chicken days in advance so of course, I panicked. What do I dooooooo??? I planned on beer can chicken roasting the animal. (insert the sound of crickets here) Well, I thought on my feet and grabbed the semi-thawed birdie, threw it in the crockpot, covered it in water and put 2 T of ginger and multiple splashes of fish sauce and a few cranks of black pepper and set it on high. This was about 6 hours before the event. Seriously. Cutting. It. Close.
Next I set out to buy the speciality ingredients at my trusty natural food store Four Seasons (In full disclosure I will be heading to my trusty local Asian Supermarket next time I buy these goodies.) I needed Bonito Flakes (what are those? Flakes of dried, smoked bonito fish.) and Kombu (kelp). I will tell you now that I used the Nori seaweed sheets I already had in the pantry*. Yes, it was not technically correct, but it worked as far as I know… And yes, the Nori sheets disintegrated when bathed in the boiling water but it was still easily strained.
With the chicken cooking in the crockpot on high, once the clock struck 90 minutes before the Soup Swapping event, I diced my veggies and made the whole soup in 30 minutes. The most time consuming part is butchering the whole chicken, if you use a whole chicken or any chicken at all, and dicing the vegetables. Seriously, this is a very quick meal to prepare.
Chickpea Miso Chicken & Veggie Soup
Makes 4 Quarts; that’s a lot, so halve if not having a dinner party
Dashi directly from Cook’s Illustrated, Soups & Stews, Pg. 12
Soup: I heavily modified the above credit.
4 pieces Kombu (or 4 sheets of Nori)
4 cups Bonito Flakes (found in your local natural food store, probably from Eden Organics or at your Asian Market)
4 quarts of water
2 chicken breasts, prepared anyway you want, small dice. (OR 16 ounces of extra frim tofu cut into teeny cubes)
I found my happy accident of poaching the whole chicken in water/ground ginger/a few splashes of fish sauce to be amazing! It produced a very juicy and flavorful chicken with a lot of ginger flavor, which was an added touch to the soup. I used the rest of the chicken for fried rice. Which again, the mild ginger flavor was perfect!
2 leeks, dice
3 carrots, dice
1 onion, dice
3 small Jerusalem artichoke (sunchokes), dice
(this was the most time-consuming part- prepping the veggies. As I didn’t want any large chunks of veg to overshadow the delicate nature of the soup I tried really hard to create uniform diced jewels.)
2 cups miso paste, I used Chickpea Miso from South River Co.
The Dashi Process (its so easy and it takes 15 minutes!): Bring 4 quarts of water and the Kombu to a boil. Once the water hits a boil, strain out the Kombu and discard. Turn off heat and add the bonito flakes. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain. I used a fine mesh reusable coffee filter that was nestled in a small hand strainer. Take 2 cups of dashi and set aside for later. DONE!
The Soup Process : Once the dashi is strained, put on a low simmer and add the veggies to tenderize. At this point the chicken should be done, so butcher the breasts to small dice or shred into pieces and add to soup. Or add pre-cooked leftover chicken from your frig. Or the tofu. Now, remember that 2 cups of dashi sitting on the sideline? Grab your two cups of miso paste and add it. Stir to incorporate. Then add the miso/dashi mixture to the rest of the soup. Stir well. Serve immediately or put a lid on the 8 quart soup pot and drive to your friends house then serve. Do not let the miso boil or you’ll lose the aroma and some of the fermented-nutritional-goodness (enzymes) that miso brings to the gut.
I promise you this is the warmest little cupa soup that will hit the spot on a cold winter day. There is a big storm brewing for Tuesday into Wednesday and you can bet I’m making this soup again for my boys.
*Because I was making 4 QUARTS of soup; enough to taste during the event then 3 quarts to go home with Sarah, Amanda & Alexis, I did not buy the kelp needed for the dashi for economic reasons. The miso was on the pricey side at $10-13 a jar and Bonito flakes at a non-Asian market go $7 (you use the whole bag with 4 quarts water) and with the local farmers market chicken and that $8 Cook’s Illustrated, we’re talking a 20 dollar soup here that feeds a dozen or more, so really its about $2 a serving… I draw the line at Kelp but not an overpriced magazine.. Ummmmm.