Thai Chicken Soup

Here it is...long awaited by some of you WHO HAD BETTER BE READING THIS, *ahem*: my Thai Chicken soup. I adapted this recipe many years ago from one of those crapbag cookbooks you get in the entryway of Borders or Barnes and Noble for like $5.99. But it evolved into one of the best soups ever, according to quite a few friends. One time my friend P.J. (now the proprietor of  Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City, MD) ate some soup at my house, left, and then promptly called from his cell phone to say he was on his way back because he needed more soup. Another friend once proposed bathing in it. And even my daughter Georgia likes it, and i'm pretty sure she's fully anorexic at age two--she eats NOTHING, ever. (She's anticipating her illustrious and successful modeling career with Victoria's Secret.) It's way good--most likely totally inauthentic, but completely delicious. Here are the ingredients:

*Split chicken breasts, skin-on, bone-in--about three big ones should come in a package...for those of you who are Thomas Keller and are using smaller, just-killed-in-your-restaurant-garden, organic chickens, maybe use four breasts. And if you are some sort of fitness-y guy, you can use skinless boneless breasts, which are easier to handle and have less fat, but you'll lose the flavor from the bones and skin. Mmmmm, bone flavor.
*1 large or 2 small onions, diced finely
*1 small Jalepeno, diced finely--optional
*Chicken stock, enough to almost cover the meat (maybe 5 cups-ish?)
*a stalk of lemongrass, if you have it--optional
* 2 cans coconut milk
*1 can diced tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes
*Curry paste--i use about 5 Tablespoons of Madras paste and 3 of Tikki Masala paste. You can get these at Whole Paycheck, or, to my surprise, Target!
*1-2 Tablespoons of fish sauce, if you have it. Optional
*2/3 to 3/4 cup peanut butter
*1-2 Tablespoons honey
*vermicelli rice noodles, prepared separately according to package directions
* cilantro and limes, for garnish

As with any soup, begin by sauteing the diced onions until they're translucent. Then add the chicken breasts, skin side down, and sear them till golden brown. Flip them over and do it again. Then add the stock and tomatoes to cover, and the lemongrass stalk (whole)and simmer until the chicken is almost cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pot and let it rest until it's cool enough to handle, and skin and shred it. Discard the skin and bones (duh). Add the curries, coconut milk, peanut butter, fish sauce, honey, and some of the cilantro if you like, and stir and simmer for a few minutes to meld the flavors. Add the shredded chicken back in, and you're done! If you are serving the entire pot of soup at once, go ahead and add the cooked rice noodles in with the soup. Other wise, spoon the soup over the noodles in individual portions to save the noodles from absorbing too much liquid and becoming a soggy mess. Garnish and enjoy!

*Note for veggies/vegans: I haven't tried this, but you could probably alter this with delicious success using vegetable stock and summer squash in lieu of meat. Try it and let me know...

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