Taters gonna tate

After 2 weeks working the night shift, it’s nice to join the rest of the world again. Switching schedules back and forth is kind of rough. I finish the evening shift and try to stay up as long as I can to help readjust. Luckily, there’s always cooking to keep me moving along so I don’t pass out in the middle of the day. So I decided to use my transition day this past weekend to go on a long run and make one of my favorite soups, potato leek.

I had made a large batch of broth that I used for soup base of this particular recipe. The ingredients to potato leek soup aren’t all that sophisticated, but the execution is all in the texture and final consistency you are going for (light vs creamy). Personally, I prefer my potato leek soup a bit more smooth and light, but there are ways to change the consistency based on how much and how fast you end up blending the final product. Contrary to popular belief, the longer and harder you blend, the less smooth your final soup will be. This is because you break up the starch in the potatoes, creating a more gooey and creamy texture. Blend too long and too hard and you might end up with an unfortunate gluey mess rather than a smooth soup.

Potato Leek Soup

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Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (Russet preferred)                         6
  • Leeks (only white ends)                                2
  • Broth
  • Butter                                                                  4 T
  • Heavy cream
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Green onions/Chives

Start by peeling your potatoes and chopping them into large chunks. Place the large chunks in a bowl of ice water while you work on the leeks so they don’t turn brown. Chop leeks and set aside. In a large pot, start melting butter on medium high heat. Be careful with the heat so as not to caramelize the leeks or brown the butter. We want the final product to be a nice creamy yellow color. Add leeks to the pot and cook until soft. Drain the potato chunks and add them to the pot. Add enough broth to pot so you just cover the potatoes and let simmer until potatoes are soft and falling apart.

In a blender, scoop out your mixture potato, leeks, and broth. Add a dash of heavy cream (it adds a nice tang) and a teaspoon of nutmeg (I don’t know why this makes it taste better but trust me). Add salt to taste. Blend the mixture on low until you get the consistency you want. Pour into bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the top and crack some fresh black pepper. Garnish with chopped scallions/chives and serve.

Pass out in a tater-induced coma after.

D

Souper Flavorful Broth

An undeniable new coolness and crispness in the air undoubtedly signals the beginning of my favorite season. If I wrote a dictionary entry for fall, it would probably read: Fall (noun): A time for tromping through leaves, apple picking, root vegetables, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and all kinds of soup! See also: the best season.

Unfortunately, I’ve been spending most of these past weeks working the night shift from 5PM-6AM. Oddly enough, based on Sarah’s usual hours on transplant surgery from 6 AM-6 (usually 7 or 8)PM, I still get to see a bit more sunlight than she does now that our days are getting shorter. Being on opposite schedules sucks as I was also just working nights in the ED prior. In the past 2 weeks, I think we’ve only logged a total of 1.25 days where we’ve both been conscious in-person at the same time and able to carry on a conversation. So we definitely had to take advantage of this past Sunday by spending a good chunk of it wandering through Rock Creek Park. The leaves are already starting to fall and change color. We tromped through the park, scaling up rock faces, and catching each other up on the occurrences of the last 2 weeks as I occasionally dashed off to pursue a preying mantis. And of course, we had to talk about what recipes we want to try out this season as well.

Chances are if you’ve been to a ramen restaurant, you’ve noticed that many of them feature a 12-24 hour broth that is packed with flavor. Chances are that most of us also do not have that much time to spare when it comes to creating a broth/soup base. So here’s a little work around to get the most flavor in the least amount of time. One of my most utilized wedding gifts has to be the Instapot. This contraption  is awesome. Its easy pressure cooker function is key.

What is pressure cooking? 

Be nice to your pressure cooker and read the safety instructions prior to use. Rule of thumb to avoid explosive results: if the lid doesn’t want to come off, don’t pry it off and sure as hell don’t stick your face over the pot if you’re foolish enough to try to force the lid off.  Fun fact: the first pressure cooker was invented back in the 1600s by a French guy named Denis! In a pressure cooker, the closed system does not allow for liquid to boil in the conventional sense. Instead, as the temperature increases in the liquid, the pressure build up in the pot forces the heat energy/steam generated by liquid back into the food, raising the actual cooking temperature and forcing a lot of flavor back into the liquid. Another cool trick for pho broth which is supposed to be nice and clear is to make it in the pressure cooker so you can avoid having to constantly skim the top of the broth for impurities. All this because you never raise the temp to a boil which makes your broth cloudy.

The best part of making your own broth is that you can customize the flavors exactly how you want and end up cross utilizing a lot of vegetable or chicken scraps. Below is just an example of some ingredients I use for a chicken broth.

Asian-style chicken Broth

Processed with Snapseed.

Noodles, sliced shiitake mushrooms, Chinese mustard greens, bean sprouts, scallions, and a soft boiled egg

  • chicken bones/carcass scraps (you may roast prior for extra flavor)
  • carrots
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • onion
  • lemon grass
  • thai basil
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • white pepper
  • salt

Throw all of this into your pressure cooker. Fill it up with water and salt to taste and let the contraption do its thing. After it’s done, sieve out all of the scraps which should leave you a nice flavorful broth.

If you want the most flavor out of your ramen, everything (noodles, vegetables, egg) should be cooked in the broth after it comes out of the pressure cooker. Put your ingredients in a bowl and scoop some more broth on top of it to finish.

D

 

 

 

On Trees and Resilience

There’s an old tree in the backyard of my childhood home. It was there when we first moved in. It still stands there now. Every year it’s a family affair to trim back its branches and gather up all the orange and brown leaves that it has strewn across the yard. By the end of the afternoon, it sits there with its new haircut, looking a bare and forlorn for the winter.

***

I like the Emergency Department a lot. It might be busy  and chaotic at times, but things are always moving and progressing towards a goal. A lot of problems we can fix. Urinary tract infections or ear infections get antibiotics. Sprains might get splinted. Fractures get a colorful cast from orthopedics. These kids feel better and go home.

Then there are others. A tired child has leukemia. A headache turns out to be a brain tumor. Whether the universe knows or word spreads across the ED staff, time seems to stop. My phone is silent for the first time the entire shift. I walk with the parents to a private room and draw the curtains. We sit down, and I prepare to deliver the news. In those moments, even the most stoic of parents shake uncontrollably with emotion. Sometimes there are a lot of questions, and sometimes there is only shock.

I think it’s disingenuous for me to pretend like I can even come close to fathoming what it feels like to be told that your child has cancer, but I can speak a little about the impact of these moments on a physician. There are times when I feel like our job is inhuman. After disclosing earth-shattering diagnoses like this, we sit with the family to offer comfort and support but after that we are expected to immediately get back to work. There is no time to process the gravity of what we just did so we spend the rest of the shift in a daze. The daze can extend into the next few days. We find ourselves crying on the way home from work in the car or sobbing randomly at dinner the following day. Fuck Cancer.

I asked a senior physician, “Does this get any easier?” He replied, “We went into medicine because we care about our patients and their families. You learn to develop your approach to delivering the bad news so in that sense it gets easier. But otherwise, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t.”

***

A few years ago as I scaled the tree in the backyard for its annual trimming, I noticed something. The main branches were covered in knots and gnarls. Remnants from when we had trimmed in the past. The trunk had also literally grown around and past where we had tied a laundry line to it when we had first moved in. Despite everything, it was still finding ways to grow, to thrive, and to shoot out its branches and leaves and reach for the sun.