The forecast promised just a few more inches and we thought it would be a fun day for a cross-country ski adventure. Someone (at the weather channel) was a wee bit off though, because ………… it snowed ALL day and most of the night! We chose Morillon, a neighboring village down the valley, for our skiing excursion and the snow created a powdery-soft, ever-thickening blanket for our path.
It was as if we were in a mystical wonderland. Although the pictures might look like black and white photos, that’s exactly how our world appeared that day; pristine, silent, unspoiled forests, hills, dales and mountains …….. all formally dressed in pure white with only sketches of branches and tree trunks peeking out here and there. Occasionally we’d, unknowingly, startle a family of birds secretly camouflaged and nestled in gnarly old trees; we’d hear only a quiet flutter of wings as hundreds of them danced though the air above us – it was as if there was a “silence rule” in the forest on snowy days.
We made it to Morrillon (about a 4 mile trek) quite famished and found a charming little café where we
enjoyed devoured a lovely traditional French lunch. We weren’t sure what we were ordering as the menu was, as expected, completely in French. We thought, at first, that the waiter spoke some English but when I asked him to interpret the menu for us, he simply went through it very slowly and distinctly, reading each item, in French! I guess he thought if he spoke slowly and clearly enough we’d be able to understand – we didn’t pass the test but took a stab in the dark – we came out winning with a delicious lunch!
By the time we arrived back home it was late in the afternoon – with the lovely white stuff still falling. I think the total snowfall was at least 6-8 inches. Daddy and the girlies (our two older granddaughters) had made a huge snowman and greeted us with a pelting of surprise snowballs from behind the fence.
Being outside most of the day awakened hearty appetites for all of us and this Coconut Curry Chicken Soup hit the spot and was the perfect prescription for a simple yet delicious dinner. It’s loaded with fabulous, healthy veggies and is easily adapted – if you don’t have or can’t find the vegetables called for, just substitute what’s available and fresh. If you prefer shrimp rather than the chicken, it would be equally delicious. Or leave out the meat all together – the broth is so flavorful, you won’t even miss it!
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 med onion
1 medium shallot
8 ounces carrots , sliced on an angle into 1/4 inch wide slices
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon lemongrass paste*
2-3 tablespoons red curry paste , available in the Asian section at most larger grocers
2 teaspoon mild curry powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
32 ounces chicken broth
6 ounces small yellow potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise, then sliced widthwise into bite size pieces
2 ounces rice noodles or rice sticks, available in the Asian section at most larger grocers
2 15-ounce cans coconut milk, I almost always use the light variety
1-2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ med red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise and then sliced crosswise
½ med yellow bell pepper, halved lengthwise then sliced crosswise
2-3 heads baby bok choy, root end trimmed about ½ inch, then thinly sliced, lengthwise
1 ½ cups tiny frozen peas
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, frozen for 30 minutes then sliced thinly into bite-size pieces
1. Heat oil till shimmering in a large pot or dutch oven then add onion, carrots and shallot, cook 3-4 minutes until beginning to soften. Add ginger and lemongrass, curry paste, curry powder, brown sugar and cilantro. Cook another minute or until fragrant.
2. Add chicken broth and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then add potatoes. Simmer another 10 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are very tender.
3. Add rice noodles (break them up before adding if they’re long) and simmer five more minutes.
4. Add coconut milk and return to a simmer. Immediately** add chicken, baby bok choy, peppers, peas, cover and turn off burner. Let sit, covered for 5 minutes. The chicken will cook during this rest time but will remain tender and velvety – if you add the chicken earlier it will cook too long and become tough. Serve with jasmine rice and a sprinkle of fresh basil and cilantro for garnish. I also love to garnish with diced avocado.
* You can use an equal amount of fresh, finely chopped lemongrass in lieu of the lemongrass paste but I like to keep this condiment on hand as most of my local grocers don’t carry fresh lemongrass. This paste is becoming quite easy to find – I’ve noticed they’re even carrying it in the produce section at Super Walmart.)
** Coconut milk will separate and lose it’s lovely consistency if boiled or simmered very long.