I've been thinking a lot lately about "comfort zones". You know, those states of behavior wherein one operates in an "anxiety-neutral space". I know it even sounds boring but we all do it. You get to cruise along at a steady output comfortable in the knowledge that while what you do lacks in challenge it makes up for in steady, satisfactory results. We tend to cling to things we know we do well when faced with other alternatives that might seem daunting or unsure. This behavior goes on in all areas of our lives and I have confronted it many times in my personal life once I have been able to correctly tag it as a comfort zone issue. Once I recognize it I usually immediately go into challenge mode and head it off straight on. There was the time I realized I was in a subtlety abusive relationship. I saw that I was clinging to it as something 'known' was more comfortable than the supposed insecurity of the unknown future, 'single state'. Once I saw it that way my bags were packed and I never looked back. Venturing out of that zone turned out fantastic and showed me that there were big rewards for accepting short term discomfort! So when I hear the phrase "comfort zones" my mind immediately goes to this type of areas where I frequently face my own fear of discomfort such as relationships, career, casual discussions involving professional sports, etc.
So what does this have to do with French Friday's With Dorie? (We are the group cooking along together, week after week, all the recipes in Dorie Greenspan's new book "Around My French Table".) For the last two weeks I have perused the various (and beautiful!) posts from my fellow Doristas and invariably I see the phrase "outside my comfort zone" uttered in the context of a particular week's recipe. Never mind that most of these come from quite accomplished bakers from Dorie's other web clatch, Tuesdays with Dorie, and that most of these bloggers can roll a pie crust or pipe a frosting as good as any of them! (During gougeres week I must have seen the phrase used at least two dozen times!) "How silly!", I thought. " How dramatic can you be?", I opined. "Its just a recipe!", I declared.
When I saw this week's recipe I was underwhelmed. I'm not a big Asian food cook. I think I once made lettuce wraps and that was a long time ago. While they turned out great, I think they were more authentic to P.F. Changs than Xiānggǎng. "I'll just sit this one out", I thought to myself. "Besides, it's not even really French is it...I never cook Asian food! It's outside my comf...." Oooph. Did I just say that? Uh oh. Did I just use "comfort zone" for a simple recipe? So true to form (and as a result of years of conditioning shaped by countless therapy sessions) I realized that my behavior was on the brink of being modified due to a fear of temporary discomfort and anxiety at the expense of long term gain. At that point had no choice but to set out and attack the recipe with gusto. (And speaking of comfort zones, I had to brave not one, but two Asian markets to get all the ingredients!)
So here it is! And like just as all the other trips outside my zone it ended with the same sense of accomplishment and high reward. This soup was as truly delicious as it was easy to make. Supposedly it is a hybrid of two types of Vietnamese soups, pho ga, a chick broth based soup, and la sa ga, a coconut based curry soup. Dorie skips the curry and combines the two into one noodly, chickeny brothy bowl of great taste. Next time I may just mix it back in as Dorie explains how to do. (I'm just that comfortable now!) I served it with all of the suggested mix-ins: Thai basil, bean sprouts, limes, cilantro, hoisin sauce, chili oil, etc. so people could create to their own tastes and spicy tolerance levels. The broth is delicious but it is the additions that make this soup so do try to have them all available. (That is where you will get most of the 'spicey' in this dish. ) My family seemed to have a lot of fun with this and its a neat trick as when family can essentially customize and flavor their soup, the likelihood that they all will like it increases. It worked here! Huge hit!
I'm skipping the process photos this week because, well... they weren't very attractive and I don't want to scare you off! (Any Doristas out there reading this will know what I mean!) And since we aren't supposed to post recipes in the hopes that you will buy the book yourselves (and you really should) I will have to promise for now to update here if I find a link to it elsewhere. But if you must have the recipe, leave a comment here or contact me and I'll be sure to get one to you. But only if you promise to cook outside your comfort zone!