Skip The Chinese Take-Out

I thought I would post the recipe for the egg drop soup I made the other day, mainly because I absolutely loved it. I used as a model the soup recipes that Mike posted in the comments, from Mark Bittman’s work at the NYT.  I’m going to briefly describe it here, in my own words so as to avoid copyright or some weird thing like that, and I’ve also done a few changes to impact flavor and protein content.  I also hope my description of the process of cooking the recipe will help you avoid some of the little paranoias I had while preparing it, especially related to whether I had the right ingredients and whether the broth was the right color.

I would also add, those recipes from the NYT all work together, and from the description of the recipe I’m making one could make two more soups just by slightly altering the procedure — so check out that link!  I also added a “final touch” that really, in my estimation, took the soup from good to great.

Egg drop soup has always been one of those mysterious things that you get at Chinese restaurants, and while it’s usually good, it’s also usually quite brothy, fairly low on actual egg content, and definitely an appetizer.  This recipe, by contrast, is much more geared towards providing a full dinner, especially if served with some fresh raw or roasted veggies.

Ingredients:

2 carrots

2 celery ribs

2 onions (I used just one because I didn’t have two, but think two would give the broth even more flavor)

10 button mushrooms

1 potato

fresh parsley

1 block firm/extra firm tofu, cubed (1/2″ cubes)

1/2 oz. dried poncini (optional)

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup chopped scallions, plus some for garnish

1 T soy sauce

1 T sesame oil

1 lemon

Make a mirepoix (a mixture of approximately equal chopped celery, carrots, and onions) and toss into about 8 cups of water in a medium stock pot or large saucepan.  Chop and add a potato (I used two very small potatoes, one russet and one yukon gold, and would suggest this as the normal baking potatoes are very starchy), a generous amount of parsley (Bittman suggests 10 sprigs) and slice and add the button mushrooms.  Bittman suggests adding some dried poncini, but I didn’t have any and it was fine.  Salt and pepper the water (be generous with the salt, but don’t go overboard.  The soy sauce will add some salt later, and the “final touch” that should unite everything and really cut down on the amount of salt you’ll need).

Put the oven burner on high heat, and once the water boils, reduce heat to a simmer, stir well, and cover.  Allow to simmer for thirty minutes (or more, depends on how hungry you are).  When the veggies are soft, strain out the broth.  I strained several times for a more “consomme” style broth.  You might want to set aside the vegetables for another use; they could be mixed with store-bought vegetable stock and lentils, for instance, for another soup later in the week.

At this point, you will notice the broth is the normal brown of a good vegetable stock.  While it is true that egg drop soup is normally a very clear color, don’t worry about it at all.

Before you start reheating, throw in the tofu (this will give the soup an extra protein kick, especially if you’re using this as a full-meal kind of soup, and provide some textural contrast to the finished product).  Taste the broth to be sure it’s salted enough, but again, remember that the soy sauce and the “final touch” will make up for some of the salt, so don’t go overboard!  (I didn’t do this, but I am thinking that if you want to throw in just a few — maybe two — VERY thinly sliced mushrooms at this point, it would be a nice addition to the soup.)  Also, before you start reheating, be sure your chopped scallions are ready, you won’t want to get to the point where you add them and realize they aren’t chopped yet, as time will be pressing.

At this point, I added the sesame oil and the soy sauce.  Bittman suggests waiting until after the next step, but honestly, I didn’t like that idea and this worked fine.

Once everything is chopped, your egg is beaten, and you are feeling confident and in a winning mood, turn the burner to high heat and boil the strained stock.  Once you reach a good boil, reduce heat to a simmer and begin SLOWLY pouring in the eggs (use a measuring cup with a spout for the easiest pour).  Keep in mind that, at this stage, the slow pour and the stirring means your simmering temperature will be a bit higher than it was when you were making the stock.  Stir constantly as you pour to break up the eggs.  You will notice that the broth will lighten significantly in this step, becoming the lighter yellow color associated with classical egg drop soups.

Once the eggs are poured and the broth has cooked them for 1-2 minutes, stir in 1/4 cups of chopped scallions.  You are now ready to serve!

The “final touch” is easy to add, and I highly recommend it.  I had a small bowl with the touch and a small bowl without, and the difference between the two is pronounced.  After preparing a bowl, grab a zester (if you don’t have one, you can substitute a cheese grater or even a fork) and zest a little bit of lemon peel directly into the bowl.  As with all zesting, avoid cutting too deep into the bitter white rind, focusing only on the yellow bits.  This will release essential citrus oils into the soup, giving it a wonderful fragrance and subtle kick to the flavor.  Garnish each bowl with a pinch of your chopped scallions, and enjoy!