A SOUP FOR WHAT AILS YOU

A Brazilian take on a Portuguese classic, “canja de galinha” may be translated as chicken soup, but not just any chicken soup.  Canja is always made with rice, no noodles allowed in it.   It is a soothing soup that warms body and soul – the gastronomic counterpart of your Mom’s embrace when you have a sore throat, or a tummy ache.  However, even when you are perfectly fine, it’s hard to beat a bowl of canja on a chilly evening with a slice of crusty bread next to it. End the night by cuddling with your loved one on the sofa watching a movie, preferably one that won’t be compromised by a few snoozing time-outs…  😉

CANJA DE GALINHA
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 slices of ginger (1/4 inch thick), slightly crushed
1 Tbs canola or corn oil

1 shallot, mined
3 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
salt and pepper
6 cups chicken stock (or water)
8 new waxy potatoes (red or yellow), quartered
10 oz  cooked white rice
squirt of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Poach the chicken breasts:  in a sauce pan, bring to a gentle boil the soy sauce, ginger pieces, and enough water to just cover the meat.  Once the water starts to boil, immediately turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let it sit for 20 minutes.  Lift the chicken breasts from the liquid, and once they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat using two forks or your fingers.  Reserve.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan, saute the shallots until barely soft, don’t let them get golden.  Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, cook for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring every now and then.  Add the chicken stock (or water), the potatoes, cover the pan and simmer until the potatoes are beginning to get tender.  Add the cooked rice and the chicken, cover the pan again and simmer everything together for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.   Squirt a little lemon juice, adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you search for “canja” recipes in the net, many will instruct you to cook the chicken and the rice in the soup instead of separately.  I strongly oppose either of these shortcuts, because they will make your soup cloudy, with a slightly heavier mouth feel.  Cooking the waxy, new potatoes in the soup doesn’t pose a problem.  For a lighter version – my Mom’s favorite – you can  omit the potatoes, but I like the extra substance they provide. Sometimes I add fresh parsley or fresh mint in the final minutes of cooking,  both very common additions in traditional “canja.”

Poaching the chicken very gently in the mixture of soy and ginger makes the meat tender, juicy, with just a hint of ginger flavor. If you like a more assertive ginger taste, grate some and add to the carrots/celery mix.  And, speaking of carrots and celery, they will be very evident in the soup, so take the time to beautifully dice them.  It is a simple soup, but small details make it special. I like to add freshly ground black pepper and a little more lemon juice in my own bowl right before indulging in it. 

Leftovers are delicious for a few days, in fact I always make a large batch because after the first meal, I find myself craving for more on the following days.  One may think that the rice would absorb too much liquid sitting in the fridge, but it’s never been a problem for us.  I use jasmine rice, perhaps other types behave differently.   January is a month that screams for soup, and I’m more than happy to oblige…   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Eggs in Snow (one of our favorite desserts!)

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CHICKEN SOUP on a CHILLY EVENING

While rummaging through the 2,675 loose recipes around my house, I found one from 2006 that was whispering my name: a simple soup from the Mean Chef collection, which was perfect for one of last week’s chilly evenings.

YUCATAN-STYLE CHICKEN SOUP WITH ORZO AND LIME
(adapted from Mean Chef’s recipe)

3/4 cup orzo pasta
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, finely minced
2 chicken skinless chicken breasts, sliced into matchstick pieces
5 cups chicken broth (preferably home-made)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup of diced tomatoes (I used organic, fire-roasted Muir)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo until al dente (do not overcook).  Drain well and reserve.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and serrano pepper for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and chicken pieces, and saute for a couple of minutes longer.

Add the chicken broth, lime juice, and tomato.   Bring to a boil and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through.  Mix in the cooked orzo, season with salt and pepper, then add cilantro just before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’d love to say that I always use homemade chicken stock, but it’s not true.  In a pinch I may use packaged stock, because it makes life easier.  But, in two instances I stay with my precious homemade version:  when making soups or risotto.   The flavor of the broth is powerful in these dishes, and your taste buds will appreciate the high road, as illustrated by this soup.

Orzo is my favorite pasta shape, but the same soup also shines with cooked rice. In Brazil we call that version “canja.”   It’s a soup with firm roots in Portugal, and my mom’s basic strategy to fight almost any kind of illness. I guess some things are the same all over the world… 😉

Please don’t skip the lime or the pepper, because without them this simple soup will be bland.  We like the flavor of cilantro, but members of the Cilantro Haters Association may skip it.   I never understood the advice to substitute parsley for cilantro, because apart from color, they have little in common.   But, I suppose a little parsley won’t hurt anything in this soup.

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