Braised Beef Noodle Soup (紅燒牛肉麵) and the Common Cold

Today was the first day I have ever had to use an ice scraper to chip the nice sheen of ice that had encased my entire car overnight. Quite the right of passage for a west coast boy.

With the cold weather inevitably come colds, flu, URIs. Although medical science would say that there is no cure for the common cold, if you grew up in my household, you would beg to differ.

I was a fairly sickly kid growing up. I had my share of upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, asthma. I’ve choked down Chinese traditional medicine concoctions, copious quantities of orange juice and grapefruit juice, taken multiple Vitamin C and Zinc tablets. Every family has some cocktail of juices, pills, foods, soups, and medicine that they swear by.  For me, I must have my beef noodle soup, and that sentiment is shared by many.

Spicy beef noodle soup has existed since the Tang Dynasty (618 to 906 AD) and was popularized by a Chinese Muslim ethnic group (who also made some bad ass hand-pulled noodles). Many Asians today still consider this dish prophylaxis against cold and flu.  I can’t comment about the the actual research behind any of these claims, but believe it or not, there’s really no harm in treating yourself to a delicious and warm meal.

Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian (紅燒牛肉麵)

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Ingredients:

  • Beef shank                                     2  lb, cut into chunks
  • Oil                                                     2 T
  • Garlic                                               8 cloves, chopped
  • Ginger                                             2 T, minced
  • Star Anise                                      3
  • Sichuan peppercorns                 1 T
  • Chili black bean sauce               2 T
  • Dark soy sauce                             4 T
  • Light soy sauce                            2 T
  • Five spice powder                        1 T
  • Tomato                                            1 large, cut into segments
  • Water                                               6 cups
  • Bok choy                                         6, halved
  • Noodles
  • Salt
  • Green onion                                  chopped

Begin by heating up a wok on high heat and season your chunks of beef with salt. In the meantime, add garlic, ginger, five spice, sichuan peppercorns, chili black bean sauce, dark and light soy sauce to a small bowl and mix well. Once the wok is hot, add oil and beef, making sure the beef is nicely seared. Add contents from the small bowl, tomato, and water. Add star anise. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and let simmer for at least 1.5-2 hours. The longer you simmer, the more tender the beef will be and the better the flavor. In the meantime, cook your noodles and bok choy in separate pots of water. Place noodles, bok choy, and desired beef in a bowl. Pour broth through a sieve over it. Garnish with green onions and enjoy.

Stay warm!

D

 

Eggsalent Breakfast Sandwich

Growing up, I always favored sweet breakfasts over savory. Weekday breakfasts usually meant one brand or another of packaged breakfast cereal, and either pancakes or waffles generously doused in Aunt Jemima syrup typically made an appearance on either Saturday or Sunday. As I grew up, I slowly became more health conscious and progressively made an effort to reign in the unconscious sugar consumption. Old habits die hard though, and I still tend to favor a stack of fluffy pancakes over omelets at brunch. That said, there is a tiny restaurant in Cambridge called City Girl Cafe whose savory brunch options always trumped sweet in my book.

I always thought that City Girl (as we affectionately called it) was exactly the sort of place I would like to open if I ever entered the restaurant business. The place seated about 20 people, max, and even that was only accomplished by packing the tables so closely together that you had to turn sideways to walk between them. Three of the walls were painted a gray-ish navy and covered with eclectic vintage art; the fourth was painted with chalkboard paint and was covered with hand-written lists of drinks and specials. Baskets bearing large plants hung near the windows. Because space was at a premium, there was no room for customers to wait inside, so eager brunch-goers would leave their name on a list and head back outside to bide their time. Amazingly, even on the bitterest of Boston winter mornings, there was always a line.

The menu was a tightly curated list of City Girl twists on brunch classics. Though I probably tried most of the menu during my two years in Cambridge, I always came back to the egg sandwich. The traditional iteration of the egg sandwich – slightly greasy and oozy with American cheese – never really did it for me. Though the City Girl egg sandwich technically contains the same elements – bread, cheese, egg, bacon – it is a different thing entirely. City Girl takes the unfussy egg sandwich and fusses over it, in the best way possible. If you are looking for a quick brunch, look elsewhere, as this sandwich takes a bit of time to be made properly. If, however, you are looking for an egg sandwich worthy of holiday breakfasts, read on.

-S

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Goat Cheese and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

  • French baguette
  • Scrambled eggs (see notes, below)
  • Goat cheese
  • Yellow onion, julienned
  • Thick-cut bacon

Heat a medium-size skillet over high heat. Add bacon, cook until done, and remove from skillet, reserving ~2T of bacon grease. Add the onions to the reserved bacon grease and turn heat down to medium. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, ideally almost jammy (note – this is the step that really requires patience. Though you can serve the sandwich with onions that have not been fully caramelized, as seen above, you will be richly rewarded if you wait. The onions play off the goat cheese best when they have been allowed to reach peak sweetness). While onions are cooking, scramble your eggs according to method listed below. Once either the eggs or onions are finished, whichever comes first, dump them out and wipe out the pan. Cut baguette in half, hollow out each half a bit, and place cut side down on your cleaned pan. Return pan to heat and warm bread until lightly toasted (you could, of course, also just toast the baguettes – either way works). To assemble sandwich, spread one half of the baguette with 1-2T of goat cheese. Top with scrambled eggs, 2 slices of the cooked bacon, and as many caramelized onions as you can pile on. Enjoy!

Egg instructions:

Crack eggs into a cold skillet. Add about 1T of butter for every 2 eggs. Transfer skillet to medium-low heat and begin to stir, slowly breaking up the yolks as you go. As soon as swirls of lightly cooked egg begin to form, remove the skillet from the heat and stir thoroughly for a few seconds. Return the mixture to the heat and continue cooking. Continue like this, removing the eggs from the heat about every 30 seconds to one minute for stirring. Eggs should be stirred continuously, on and off the heat. Stop cooking when the eggs are barely set, ideally still a bit runny, as they will continue cooking from the heat of the pan. Using this method, the eggs will take several minutes to cook, but will also be superlatively creamy.

I Yam a Sweet Potato

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” -R+J

Sarah stole my thunder and already talked about our Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving, but I figure for a holiday filled with food, it warrants at least one more post…plus I have all the pictures.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was the epitome of Asian fusion cuisine. Our stuffing was composed of glutinous rice, Chinese sausage, mushrooms, peanuts, lotus seeds, and dates instead of the typical breadcrumbs. We had no need for gravy as our turkey was basted with a teriyaki sauce that permeated the bird and created a lovely dark brown/black-colored skin. Instead of the typical sides, we’d have an assortment of my mother’s amazing Chinese dishes. The following day, the leftover turkey transformed itself into an amazing rice porridge that I still dream about.

As years went on, I brought the typical garlic mashed potatos and green beans into the mix and started spending some Thanksgivings away from home. The smells that I typically associated with Thanksgiving began to morph and evolve as did my friendships and relationships.

Ultimately, I find myself in a blissfully confusing amalgam of food and people from all aspects of my life. Delineations between friends, family, and home have blurred, and each of the people pictured and mentioned have played some pivotal role in my life and molded who I have become. I feel truly fortunate to be surrounded by these people.

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This year Sarah and I were lucky enough to be able to celebrate with my co-interns and our friends in NOLA and my sister. I’m really not a fan of the traditional candied yams so thought I would try to create something with a nice blend of savory and sweet while still paying homage to some of the classic smells and seasonings of the holiday. Ultimately, I came up with this mashed sweet potato recipe that I brought to both celebrations.

Ginger and Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes                  4-5, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Garlic                                    5 cloves, minced
  • Ginger                                  3 Tbsp, minced
  • Butter                                   4 Tbsp
  • Milk                                       1/4 cup or less
  • Cinnamon                           1/2 Tbsp
  • Cloves                                   1 tsp
  • Nutmeg                                1/2 Tbsp
  • Salt                                        To taste

In a large pot, add chunks of sweet potato and cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until pieces of sweet potato are easily pierced with a fork. As sweet potatoes are boiling, in a small pan, saute garlic and ginger until lightly golden brown and set aside. After sweet potatoes are done, drain all water and place back in pot. Add butter, sauteed garlic and ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and begin mashing. Add milk a little at a time until reaching desired consistency. Add salt as needed.

-D

Oh yeah, yams vs sweet potatoes.

Yams and sweet potatoes are actually not related at all. They are also not related to potatos. Confused yet? Sweet potatoes hail from Central and South America while yams come from Africa, Asia, and tropical regions. Chances are that whatever you picked up for Thanksgiving is actually a sweet potato. It also doesn’t help that many grocery stores label an orange-colored sweet potato a yam.

 

Collard country

Growing up, we always stuck with the staples on Thanksgiving – a turkey roasted in the oven, diligently basted until the skin turned a crackly golden brown, sweet potatoes with a brown sugar and oat crumble topping, stuffing made from bagged bread cubes and copious amounts of dried sage, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pecan pie. The menu and guest list varied little over the years. Despite only cooking to feed 4-8 people (nuclear family plus various permutations of grandparents), we always looked for a 20lb+ bird so that we could count on days of sandwiches and easy dinners. For 24 years, this was the annual feast I looked forward to and, when I moved from Colorado to Connecticut for college then Boston for work, the feast I travelled home for.

Four years ago, when I moved to Louisiana for medical school, the trek home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas started to seem unnecessarily expensive and hectic and I embraced a new tradition – Friendsgiving as actual Thanksgiving. My brother Jake, by then also in college away from home, decided it would be more fun to join me than the parents and the two of us accepted the invitation of a friend of mine to join a bunch of Thanksgiving orphans for a pot-luck feast. Away from our family traditions I decided to try out some new recipes, so we showed up with bacon-roasted brussels sprouts and a pear-cranberry galette (a galette made out of necessity as I didn’t own a pie pan). The potluck turned out to be an amalgamation of cross-cultural Thanksgiving traditions – wild rice casserole shared the table with marshmallow topped sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. The star of the show was the turkey, roasted in a mole-like sauce made by a friend originally from El Salvador. For me, that eclectic bunch of foods mixing different family customs was far more interesting than the traditional meal I was used to. From then on I was hooked on the Friendsgiving pot-luck concept.

Four years after that first Friendsgiving, the friend who hosted my brother and I is now my husband and, earlier this year, we left Louisiana for residency positions in DC. We weren’t ready to give up our beloved tradition though, so, when time came to put in vacation requests, we both made sure to ask for a week around Thanksgiving so that we could fly back to visit some friends who remained in New Orleans. In the spirit of our return, I decided to make a huge batch of collard greens for one of our vegetable courses. We made collards fairly often while living in Louisiana, so I never really thought of them as a holiday food. Apparently I was wrong, as finding collard greens the day before Thanksgiving turned into an epic, multi-store trek. On the big day, we enjoyed them smashed together with mashed sweet potatoes, turkey, and stuffing, but they are equally delicious on their own, spooned over rice, or (more traditionally) paired with red beans.

-S

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Friendsgiving Collard Greens

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 2 large hatch chiles or Anaheim chili peppers, seeded, diced
  • 1 small or medium onion, diced
  • 1 bunch collards, stems removed, julienned
  • 1-2 C. chicken stock
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste

Cut bacon into 1/4″ wide pieces. Heat a large skillet over high heat, add bacon, and saute until cooked through. Remove bacon from skillet. Drain off grease, reserving 2-3T. Add onions and peppers to the hot bacon fat. Cook onion and peppers until lightly browned but not quite caramelized. Add collards and toss thoroughly. Cook until collards are beginning to wilt, then turn down heat to medium-low. At this point, add about 1C chicken broth, about 1/4 – 1/2 t cayenne pepper, depending on your heat tolerance, and the pre-cooked bacon. Put a lid on the skillet. Cook until greens are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes and add more chicken broth as needed so that the pan is never dry. By the end of the cooking time, most of the broth should have evaporated. If greens are still in a pool of broth at the end of the cooking time, simply remove lid, turn up the heat on the pan and continue cooking until remaining liquid boils off. Add a pinch or two of sea salt, to taste.

Note – collards can be rather tough and bitter – julienning them quite finely helps them to break down more quickly and thoroughly.

 

In Gourd We Trust

Finally on vacation!!! After working for so long, I’m sad to admit that I still feel like I don’t really know what to do with all this unstructured free time. Fortunately, there’s been a lot of recipes and cooking projects that I’ve been putting off.

Yesterday I found myself at Dupont Farmer’s Market seeking inspiration for a good fall recipe. I found myself waiting in line for a giant blueberry pancake that Sarah and I have lovingly named, “face pancakes” because they are larger than my face. Their inordinant fluffy texture also means that these pancakes are not easily sated by the embarrassing amount of maple syrup that I drown them in.

On a side note, sometimes farmer’s markets feel like a big game of Settlers of Catan. Definitely overheard vendors bartering with one another, “Two chocolate milks for a pancake?” Sounded like a mutually beneficial trade.

Off to a grand start, I started wandering the stalls and noticing all the various edible and decorative gourds. It’s hard to think of fall and not think of squashes or the unforgettable aromas of its spices. I ended up picking up some acorn squash and some delicious lion’s mane mushrooms from North Cove Mushrooms for this recipe.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Ingredients:

  • Acorn squash                                                         2, halved with seeds out
  • Rice                                                                           2 cups
  • Broth
  • Onion                                                                       medium, diced
  • Mushrooms                                                            1 cup, chopped
  • Walnuts                                                                   1/2 cup, chopped
  • Raisins                                                                     1/2 cup
  • Spinach                                                                    1 cup
  • Star anise                                                                         3
  • Cloves                                                                       1/2 T
  • Cinnamon sticks                                                    2
  • Nutmeg                                                                     1/2 T
  • Olive oil                                                                     2 T
  • Parmesan                                                                  shredded
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Rice: Depending on the kind of rice you use, the proportions of broth may differ. Add your anise, cloves, and cinnamon to the rice to infuse some of those nice flavors and aromas. Remove the anise, cloves, and cinnamon sticks from the rice after it is done.

Squash: Cut the acorn squash into halves and remove the seeds. Lightly coat the insides of the squash with 1 T of olive oil (total for 4 halves). Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven with cut sides facing down on 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes. You want the inside texture to be soft enough that you can pass a fork through fairly easily.

Stuffing: Toast chopped walnuts in a small pan. In a separate pan, heat up 1 T of olive oil on high heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms and spinach. Cook until spinach cooks down. Add rice, walnuts, and raisins. Incorporate all the components well. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Assembly: Fill your squash halves with the stuffing. Sprinkle some Parmesan on top and stick it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese melts. Remove from oven and serve.

D

On Politics and Pizza

A physician’s job can be ethically challenging at times. Our centuries old Hippocratic oath obliges us to heal the sick. Which means we treat man, woman, child, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Democrat, Republican, Independent, gay, straight, transgender, rapist, drunk driver, child molester exactly the same; to the best of our ability and with the utmost dignity and respect that we can muster.

With the election now behind us, regardless of which side you happen to be on, we’ve been bombarded with the notion that our country is divided: red vs blue; whites vs minorities; urban vs country; baby boomers vs millennials.

I had the privilege of going to a talk by the Dalai Lama when I was in New Orleans. He exuded an incredible sense of harmony and caring. With a mischievous grin and twinkle in his eye, he delivered a simple message like it was the most carefully guarded secret in the world:

There is no they.

I will heed this in the time to come. But whether it’s politics or the practice of medicine, there is no room or tolerance for sexism, racism, xenophobia, or bigotry.

So let’s come together and share a meal instead.

All-Inclusive Flatbreads

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Ingredients:

  • Canned whole tomatoes                                  28 oz
  • Rosemary                                                              2 sprigs
  • Oregano                                                                 1 T
  • Chorizo                                                                  1/4 lb
  • Red bell pepper                                                   2, julienned
  • Onion                                                                      1 large, julienned
  • Cauliflower greens                                             1 cup
  • Mozzarella                                                            Shredded
  • Salt                                                                          To taste
  • Dough                                                                    (Trader Joe’s has pre-made pesto dough)

I’m choosing to call this recipe flat bread rather than pizza because for some reason flatbread sounds healthier than pizza, and it makes me feel better about myself. If you prep the dough beforehand, this is an crowd pleaser for parties or a super fast meal option for a busy day. Obviously the toppings can vary based on whatever your preference tends to be. But I will vouch for the combination I’ve posted above. Sarah and I really wanted to re-purpose the greens from the giant cauliflower we bought rather than throw them away. We both love the slight bitterness of greens on pizza…err flatbread.

Turn on your oven to broil. Start off by putting your canned tomatoes with the juice included into a food processor and running it to a consistency of your choosing. I like having some small chunks of tomato. Pour it into a small pot and add rosemary, oregano, salt. Bring to simmer and let reduce as you prep your other ingredients. In a separate pan, add chorizo and cook until outside is golden brown. Remove chorizo from pan and put on plate. In same pan, add bell peppers, onions, and cauliflower greens. Saute until onions caramelized. Roll out your dough to the thickness you desire. Add a small amount of the tomato sauce and spread it across the dough (I can’t emphasize the small amount enough. You don’t want it drowning in sauce otherwise your final product tastes soggy). Add desired amount of chorizo, cauliflower greens, onions, bell peppers. Sprinkle top with shredded Mozzarella. Put final product in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until edges start to brown. Remove from oven, slice, and enjoy.

D

Frankensteined Chicken and Leeks

We’re into November! I’m still cranking away on the GI service and haven’t seen Sarah since the beginning of the week since she started working the night shift on trauma. Halloween at a children’s hospital is a blast.

halloween

Yip yip

I spent a lot of the day strolling around the hospital in my costume yipping at passersby. Don’t worry. Patients were still cared for. Unfortunately, I don’t really think you could say the same for the trauma surgery service though…But I guess if you were getting rolled into the ER after being shot or stabbed, you wouldn’t want to see a pink colored monster racing towards you.

Today’s Halloween inspired recipe pays homage to a classic monster, Frankenstein, who was created via stitching together various scavenged body parts. So I am exhuming parts of the potato leek soup, leftover leek tops, and chicken broth from the previous posts.

Braised Chicken and Leeks with Potato Puree

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Ingredients:

  • Chicken drumsticks and thighs                                       1 lb
  • Leeks (green tops)                                                                1 cup, chopped
  • Chicken broth                                                                        1.5 cups
  • Butter                                                                                       2 T
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In large pan with lid, begin heating up butter. Once the pan is hot, add chicken pieces skin side down and let cook until skin begins to crisp and brown. Turn once and cook until chicken begins to brown on the outside. Remove chicken from pan and set aside on plate. Add leeks to pan and cook until soft. Add in chicken pieces. Add chicken broth and cover with lid. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Blend the potato and leek mixture from the soup on high until achieving a puree consistency. Spread on plate with a spoon. Plate chicken pieces with leeks on top. Sprinkle with some red pepper flakes. Serve with a side of vegetables.

It’s alive!!!!

D

 

 

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.