Curried Peanut Soup

I’ve wanted to tell you about this soup for a long time, over five years actually. I remember making it for the first time in the 2-bedroom townhouse where I lived (I now pay 3 times as much for an apartment that is half the space, ugh) and attempted to photograph it. Even then I was far too unhappy with the picture to post it, and mind you this is when I was still using my on-camera flash on a regular basis. But perhaps the root of the problem was the sheer fact that the soup itself is downright ugly, a problem that props, lighting, or camera quality can’t fix.

It’s a shame really. The soup is so vibrant and unusual once you taste it, a combination of coconut, curry, and peanut with a slow-burning heat and some pops of acidic lime alongside a slew of hearty vegetables. But it’s hard to get that point across when the final product is so… brown. And not the good brown like steak brown. This is a light sickly orange-green brown, one that it reminiscent of many unpleasantries that I’ll leave to your own imagination. And unfortunately it just so happens to taste really delicious with couscous (beige) and toasted coconut (brown). Sigh. But after making this soup so many times these past 6 years, I couldn’t hold back any longer. So here it is, in it’s many shades of brown, one of my favorite dishes of all time, curried peanut soup.

I’ve made this a variety of ways, trying different vegetables and proteins, but this is how I like it best. You get a good mix of textures and flavors to help break through the richness of the coconut and peanut with the chunks of fire-roasted tomatoes and the earthy sweet potatoes and spinach. But, feel free to add green beans and/or frozen corn in addition to or instead of some of the other vegetables to change it up. If you’re craving something lighter, you can use a fish like cod or some peeled shrimp instead of the chicken if added raw to the simmering soup at the end until cooked through. Or, leave out the protein altogether for a filling vegetarian main. The couscous, toasted coconut, and lime squeeze are pretty clutch though and I wouldn’t skip out on those add-ons. No matter how you make it though, you’re going to end up with a crazy satisfying soup, albeit an ugly soup, but a good one for sure.

Curried Peanut Soup
Serves 8
Adapted slightly from The Traveler’s Lunchbox

4 Tbs. olive oil
1.5 lbs chicken thighs, cut into small chunks
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thick coins
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into chunks
2 Tbs. curry powder
a pinch of cayenne
5 cups chicken stock
1-28oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
8oz fresh baby spinach
1 handful chopped parsley

to serve
1 cup couscous, cooked according to package instructions
toasted coconut chips
lime wedges

In a large heave-bottomed pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same, pot, add the rest of the oil and then the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook until the onions are softened and starting to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add in the carrots, sweet potato, curry powder, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for about a minute more. Add the stock and the tomatoes with their juices. Scrape off any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, add the chicken back in, and cook over low for about 20 minutes until the carrot and sweet potato pieces are cooked through.

Add the peanut butter, coconut milk, and spinach to the soup and stir. At this time you can also make your couscous. Let the soup simmer until the spinach is wilted and thickened slightly, another 10 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the soup alongside the couscous and top with toasted coconut and a squeeze of lime.

Snickers Caramel Corn

One of the most special aspects of the holidays is that they conjure up the craving of very specific foods that are really only allowed this time of year. Well, I guess not technically but can you really imagine eating peppermint bark in the middle of July? By restricting certain foods to once-a-year status, it seems to make them more special and I enjoy it all the more when it I know that its only around for a short while. So bring on the eggnog, the pannetone, the peppermint chocolate and, my favorite, caramel corn.

For me, caramel corn is one of those treats that I could “accidentally” eat a whole batch without getting sick of it (but probably getting literally sick along the way). With that said, I’ve actually never made caramel corn myself until about a month ago. It way overshadows the other stuff that I used to find so addicting and found it to be much easier than I could have imagined…though maybe this isn’t a good thing. My curiosity for making my own began with this recipe for dark and stormy caramel corn over at Lottie and Doof. I made the exact version and it was delectable. It has a thin crispy shell of caramel coating with just the right bit of saltiness and a good kick from the lime and ginger. A then realized that by taking the base recipe for the corn (without the additional flavorings) I could adapt caramel corn to any combination of flavors that I wanted. Oh, the possibilities!

So, in honor of today being National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day, I give you Snickers Caramel Corn. It’s peanut, it’s chocolate, it’s caramel…how much better could things get? I also topped it with a sprinkling of Maldon Sea salt for that perfect sweet and salty contrast. It literally tastes like a super fudgy and crunchy Snickers bar in Popcorn form. Make this caramel corn for all of your friends this Christmas and you are sure to start a new tradition that keeps everyone waiting eagerly all year long for more. Merry Christmas everyone!

Snickers Caramel Corn
Adapted from this recipe
Makes about 12 cups

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cups coarsely chopped lightly salted peanuts
12 cups plain popped popcorn (using about ½ cup of kernels popped according to package instructions)
4 oz. dark chocolate, melted (I used 70% cacao scharffen berger)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Also get all of your ingredients measured out and ready because the process goes a little quickly.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt over medium-high heat. Stir with a rubber spatula until everything is incorporated. Once the mixture starts boiling, stop stirring. If the caramel begins to turn brown in the center of the pot before the edges, however, it is ok to gently swirl the pot itself to evenly distribute the mixture. Let the caramel continue to boil until is reaches a nice amber color overall and lets off a caramel smell.

Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the baking soda. Add in the vanilla (stand back, it will sputter) and keep whisking until smooth.  Dump in the peanuts and the popcorn and fold it into the caramel using a rubber spatula, coating the popcorn evenly. Spread the popcorn out onto the sheet pan and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Take the pan out about every 5 minutes and give everything a bit of a stir to ensure that it is all well coated with the caramel.

While the corn is cooking, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Remove the popcorn from the oven and drizzle the melted chocolate overtop. Sprinkle a bit of Maldon sea salt on the chocolate. Set aside until the popcorn is cool and the chocolate is solid (a cold garage is a good place to do this). Once completely cool, break into bite-size pieces and watch it disappear.