At the tail-end of winter, I'm often tempted to buy out-of-season produce flown in from far-flung regions. This week I'm taking a big breath, putting the asparagus down, and giving rutabagas and potatoes a last hurrah. They're the perfect additions to this Thai-inspired chicken soup, adding a hearty note that feels just right for the equinox.
Simmered in a silky coconut broth, diced root vegetables take on heady aromas of ginger and lemongrass. Chicken breast is my protein of choice, making this a meal in a bowl.
Rest assured, you can throw together this impressive looking meal on a weeknight, or whenever you’d like a comforting, steaming bowl of soup in a hurry. A few shortcuts make the recipe come together very quickly:
Start with store-bought chicken broth. It makes a perfectly fine base as you’ll be adding plenty of aromatics to make up for any lack of flavor.
Skip the traditional step of steeping pieces of lemongrass and ginger in the broth, and instead use ginger and lemongrass pastes, available in the produce section of larger supermarkets.
Cutting the vegetables into small pieces at the beginning of the recipe might seem a little fussy, but they’ll cook much faster than if you’d chopped them roughly.
Before you know it, you’ll have bowls of piping hot, fragrant soup on the table. Serve with extra cilantro, wedges of lime, and a bottle of Sriracha sauce, and let your guests season their bowls to taste.
Quick Winter Coconut Soup
Makes 4 2-cup servings
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons ginger paste (or fresh ginger, microplaned)
2 teaspoons lemongrass paste (see Recipe Note for substitute)
2 small rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 of a medium red onion, cut into thin slices
6 sprigs cilantro, stems removed
Juice of 1 large lime
Sprigs of cilantro
In a medium (at least 5-quart) heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven, combine the chicken broth, coconut cream, fish sauce, ginger paste, and lemongrass paste. Bring up to a simmer over a medium flame.
Add the rutabagas, carrots, parsnips and potato to the pot. Allow the soup to come back up to a simmer (this takes about 6 minutes), then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are just shy of fork-tender.
Add the chicken pieces to the pot, turn the flame back up to medium, and bring up to a simmer. Turn down to low again, then let the chicken simmer for another 2 minutes, until it is cooked through and the vegetables are tender but not falling apart.
Remove the soup pot from heat, then add the red onion, cilantro leaves, and lime juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with additional cilantro, lime wedges, and Sriracha sauce on the side.
Vegan Soup Version: Make this recipe vegan with three simple substitutions: use vegetable or mushroom broth instead of chicken broth, cubed tofu or sliced mushrooms instead of chicken, and tamari or soy sauce instead of fish sauce.
Coconut cream can be purchased at Trader Joe’s and some Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find this ingredient, you can substitute the solid coconut cream that rises to the top of a can of regular coconut milk.
Lemon Grass Paste Substitute: Instead of paste, you can use a 3" piece of fresh lemon grass. Peel away the tough outer layer, chop it roughly, and tie it up in a bundle of cheesecloth with a piece of kitchen twine, or a bouquet garni bag. Add it to the pot along with the ginger paste, then remove just before serving.