VIETNAMESE CHICKEN SOUP WITH PINEAPPLE (for six)
This recipe was in a letter to Gourmet Magazine dated December, 2004, from Kia Ly Dickinson in Miami. She said the soup can be served hot or cold, with rice, and that it is “so good you will be freaking out”.
1 pineapple (preferably labeled “extra sweet”) about 3-1/2 pounds
about 2 quarts water
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (3/4 pound total)
¼ cup vegetable oil
four 1-inch fresh red Thai chiles, minced, including seeds
3 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons nam pla, or other Asian fish sauce
½ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped (2 cups)
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts (2 ounces)
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup coarsely chopped lemon verbena (If you can’t find lemon verbena, substitute 1 stalk fresh lemongrass. Discard 1 or 2 outer leaves, thinly slice lower 6 inches of stalk, finely chop, and sauté along with chiles and garlic in step 4 below)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1. Cut peel from pineapple in a thin layer, then trim outer layer of pineapple, cutting just deep enough to remove eyes but allowing pineapple to remain intact. Transfer trimmings to a blender. Quarter pineapple lengthwise and cut out core, then coarsely chop core and add to blender. Puree with 2 cups water until smooth. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart glass measure, pressing hard on solids (discard solids). Add enough water to measure 8 cups pineapple broth.
2. Cut remaining pineapple into ½ inch pieces and put in a bowl.
3. Place chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Gently pound chicken ¼ inch thick with the flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin. Cut chicken across grain into ¼ inch wide strips and transfer to a bowl, then chill, covered.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 5 to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté chiles, 2 tablespoons garlic (and lemongrass if you’re using it), stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup nam pla and boil until sauce is reduced by half, about 2 minutes (Fish sauce will be extremely pungent when first added but will have a mild flavor in the soup). Add pineapple broth and bring to a boil. Stir in pineapple pieces, mushrooms, tomatoes, bean sprouts and ¼ teaspoon pepper and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
5. While soup simmers, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté the remaining tablespoon garlic, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce and simmer until sauce is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
6. Sprinkle chicken with remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper and add to garlic mixture, then sauté, stirring, until just cooked through, about 4 minutes.
7. Stir chicken into soup along with herbs and salt and simmer 1 minute.