Give mini wontons a bath in homemade stock

The Whole Dish podcast: Homemade stock transforms rice into exceptional risotto

If you’re inclined to read significance into groundhogs seeing their shadows, an unseasonably sunny Feb. 2 surely means more winter is on the horizon.

So I’m still filling the fridge and freezer with foods that will see us through the cold season into spring. Chief among them is stock.

While long-simmered soups are a cook’s prerogative in late winter, I personally prefer stock as the open-ended product of hours on the stovetop. It’s like having half the meal prep already done for not one, but multiple, dishes. In fact, I recently showed a friend how a pot of rich duck stock could be transformed, simultaneously, into risotto for dinner and butternut squash soup for the next day’s lunch, plus a portion for the freezer.

We started by roasting a squash for the soup and also dicing some raw for the risotto. As the Arborio rice sucked up its allotment of stock and softened the cubed squash, the blender melded the remaining stock, roasted squash flesh and some sautéed onion and celery into a deeply flavored, brightly colored soup brightened with a splash of apple-cider vinegar and squeeze of orange juice.

The silky soup took just minutes to make, true to my method for numerous variations that begin with homemade stock. Any vegetable simmered in homemade stock, pureed and enriched with cream attains elegance. Or give fresh or frozen ravioli or tortellini a quick bath in homemade stock with chopped kale or collard greens, ladle the mixture into wide, shallow bowls and top with lots of grated Parmesan cheese.

The following recipe perfectly fits the latter format. While testers for the Detroit Free Press test kitchen favor Trader Joe’s chicken-cilantro mini wontons, we recently purchased chicken-cilantro BIBGO-brand wontons at Costco that are the ideal size for soups but also delicious sautéed for an appetizer or accompaniment to fried rice or stir-fry.

The Free Press’ recipe doesn’t specify homemade stock, but I’ll certainly designate some of mine for this fast, simple supper.

Tribune News Service photo

Quick and Easy Chicken Wonton Soup

½ pound shiitake mushrooms

2 teaspoons canola oil

6 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

About 1/2 bag (more if desired) chicken-cilantro mini wontons (such as Trader Joe’s)

2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil or hot chili oil, or to taste (optional)

2 cups coarsely chopped Napa cabbage

3 scallions, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

Remove and discard stems of the shiitakes. Wipe shiitakes clean with a damp paper towel. Cut shiitake caps into thin slices.

In a medium saucepot, heat the canola oil. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté until soft. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Add the wontons and cook for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil, if using; the Napa cabbage and scallions. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and ladle into bowls. Makes 4 servings.

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