Amuse Bouche This: Pork Wonton Soup Meets Japanese Braised Pork Belly and Kale

[I can't believe I still haven't blogged about this!... This post was sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year.  How did i miss this?! ]

My ultimate comfort food is pork wonton soup that my Mom used to make when I was growing up.  I could almost guarantee there would a big bowl of filling with two packets of wonton wrappers waiting for me to help her wrap wontons during the first day of winter.  We’d make a large batch to consume later that night, but she would also freeze baggies of wontons for Monday night dinners weeks ahead.

It’s raining and cold outside today.  I was craving something warm and soothing, but I realized that we had recently finished the wontons my Mom gave us.  What was my solution?  It was easy… make some more!

This is my kicked up version of the traditional pork wonton soup with slices of char shiu pork and bok choy…

Amuse Bouche This: Pork Wonton Soup Meets Japanese Braised Pork Belly and Kale

For the filling:

1 pound of ground pork
3 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 1/4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup of low-sodium chicken broth
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1 packet of wonton wrappers

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.

Fill a small bowl with water and keep it next to you. Place one heaping teaspoonful of the filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. [Be sure not to put too much of the filling, otherwise it'll leak out during the folding process.] Moisten all the edges of the wonton wrapper with water using your finger. Fold one edge of the wrapper over the filling like a triangle. Press the edges firmly together to make a seal, which will help eliminate any air pockets. Bring the left and right corners together above the filling. Overlap the tips of these corners, moisten with water and press together. Continue until all the wrappers are used.

Note: Wontons can be made a month ahead. Freeze in a layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Carefully lift the wontons and place them in a sealable plastic bag and keep frozen.

For the soup:

1 quart of chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch of kale, strip out the center core or stalk, tear kale into small pieces

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the kale and drop in the amount of wontons you want, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes minutes.

Garnish serving spoon or miniature serving bowls with a little broth, kale, a wonton, and braised pork belly.

For the braised pork (adapted from No Recipes):

6 cloves of garlic crushed with a heavy object
1 cup water
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons sake
2 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds pork belly cut into 2″ strips

In a small dutch oven or heavy bottom pan with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the ingredients in the pot, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat falls apart and the fat is silky smooth.

Remove from heat and allow the pork to rest in the broth overnight by putting it in the refrigerator after it cools. This will accomplish two things: 1) it gives the pork belly a chance to absorb more flavor and 2) it will be easier to skim off the rendered fat.

[Gently reheat the left over with some braising liquid and serve over white rice. You won't regret it.]

Spaghetti with Italian Turkey Sausage, White Wine, and Fresh Tomatoes

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What not a better way to celebrate the summer then by incorporating the fruits of our labor (no pun intended) into yummy summer-y recipes?  Our vegetables plants have been providing us with steady bountiful “crops” of tomatoes, as well as basil.  I didn’t want to repeat last year’s terrible bout of laziness, in which ALL of the vegetables were not harvested.  Not one tomato.  It all went to waste, especially after all the time, effort, and money that I invested to set up drip lines. This year is going to be different.

And for the past several years, I’ve been telling myself to just buy one tomato plant because we end up with way too much tomatoes (and it usually goes to waste).  I even told my partner to stop me from buying two plants.  But sure enough, I left the nursery with TWO tomato plants again.  After I harvested a very large bowl of tomatoes, I told my partner to remind me to buy only one tomato plant next year.  Her response, “I told you this year, but you were too stubborn to listen.”  Ugh.  She’s right.  I was too stubborn to listen.  And now we have way too many tomatoes.  You know what’s funny?  I’ll probably be too stubborn to listen next year and many years after.  I don’t think I’ll ever learn my lesson.

My partner did say that she LOVES pasta when we first started dating.  So guess what we’ll be having for dinner for the next many weeks to come?

You guessed it!…

Spaghetti with Italian Turkey Sausage, White Wine, and Fresh Tomatoes

4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1.5 links sweet Italian turkey sausage, remove from casing
1.5 links hot and spicy Italian turkey sausage, remove from casing
1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
3/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 teaspoon dried red hot chili flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 heaping cupful grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
Whole wheat spaghetti pasta

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sweet and hot turkey sausages until well combined. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the whole wheat pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions for al dente.  Drain the pasta in a colander and return to the pot; cover with a lid to keep warm.

In a separate skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and onions and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  If the garlic is browning too quickly, turn down the heat to medium.  Add a dash of kosher salt to the onions to help it sweat a little bit.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil.  Add the ground turkey sausage to the pan and saute until browned and no longer pink over high heat, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Be sure to crumble/break up the sausages while it is cooking in the pan.

Once the sausages have browned, add the white wine to deglaze the pan and dissolve/scrape the browned bits that have crusted to the skillet.  Cook for about two minutes over high heat.  Add the cooked garlic and onions, crushed tomatoes, red chili flakes, and bring sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  [Do not over salt the sauce as you will be adding grated parmesan to the dish.]

Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss until well-coated.  Add the grated parmesan cheese and toss again until it has been thoroughly incorporated.

Serve on a big platter family style or on individual serving plates.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, and extra grated parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup

I roasted a four pound chicken following Thomas Keller’s recipe for dinner the other night.  The roasted chicken was AMAZING.  I usually break down the chicken after dinner so that the chicken doesn’t take up too much room in the refrigerator.  It also makes it easier to just grab and go for meals the days after.  But I didn’t want random meals of chicken incorporated into salads, wraps, and such. I wanted something better. I wanted Giada’s lemon chicken soup with spaghetti. I enjoy chicken noodle soup, but it can be a bit boring.  This recipe just blows boring chicken noodle soup out of the waters!  It’s super flavorful, and warms you up from head to toe on a cold wintery day.  If you are not a citrus lover, I would suggest cutting the lemons back as it may be overpowering for some.  This is a wonderful lemony soup.  We heart our citrus.

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
6 bay leaves (or a few dried bay leaves)
1 (four-inch) piece Parmesan cheese rind
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups (about 5 ounces) spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
4 cups diced cooked roasted chicken
2 cups grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaves, and Parmesan rind to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots and simmer until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the broken pasta and cook until the pasta is tender, for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and heat through, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and the Parmesan rind and discard.  Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and the parsley.  Season with salt, to taste.  Ladle the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

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