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An Unbalanced Impulse: Ginger Beef Soup
Categories: Beef, Dairy, Ginger

Wrong Ginger, but still spicier than Mary Anne

I think of myself as a logical person.  I consider numerous solutions to a problem, weigh them against each other on the scale of reason, and choose the best alternative.

At least I used to.

As I get older (and lazier) I find myself turning my back on rational thought in favor of gut feelings, impulses, and the occasional wild guess.

This is especially true with my parenting as I grasp for the threads of arguments that will change my daughters’ minds, moods or, the holy grail, both at the same time. The children who arrived  home from the hospital all those years ago never came with operating instructions and although I have a better handle on what makes them tick, their bodies and brains keep changing,  making my old techniques ineffective.

The result is that I lunge for promising solutions and hope that my love and commitment for them will nudge the girls in the direction I want them to go.  And because my daughters have an emotional attachment to me, I often get away with it.

When it comes to cooking, however, despite all the love I put into it, the ingredients remain indifferent to my efforts.  No matter what outlandish combination of flavors or cooking technique I employ, they behave rationally.

This would have been great for the old me, but it gets the new (aka older) me into a lot of trouble.

That’s what happened this past week.

I began the week with the intention of making a classic beef stew with celery, carrots, onions, potatoes and thyme.  It’s what’s known as “Camp Stew” in my family because it originated (minus the thyme) over a Coleman stove in the wilds of upstate California.

It’s simple and delicious.

But when I got to the grocery store, I walked past the fresh ginger display and crazy old man Phil took over.

Goodbye Camp Stew.  Hello Ginger Beef Soup.

I started peeling and mincing the ginger when I got home, and when I was done, I had about four ounces worth.  That ought to have been enough, right?

Next I proceeded to brown the meat along with the onions and, after a few minutes, half of the ginger.  Yes, on impulse, I decided to not use all the ginger.  I figured I could add more later as necessary.  Then I added the remaining vegetables, potatoes, stock and seasonings and simmered them together for about an hour.

The first taste was way too gingery.  My youngest daughter actually recoiled from the strength.

Salvage time.

I started emptying the pantry and the refrigerator into the pot in the hope of diluting the ginger flavor and balancing out the stew.  First came mushrooms, then garlic, then coconut milk, and finally sour cream.

Second taste.  Much better.  More balanced, fuller and, due to the additional liquids, a lot less like a stew and a lot more like a soup.

Ironically, the beef flavor was almost lost in the process.  It was still part of the balance, but I think the soup would work with just about any protein—chicken, shrimp, even tofu.

Call it the price of impetuousness.

As always, the real test came at the dinner table…

My wife loved it, calling it one of the best soups I’d made to date. My eldest daughter wouldn’t eat hers because it tasted “bad.” My youngest thought there was still too much ginger.

So who’s right?

My wife, of course.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, pre-adolescent brains and tastes aren’t fully developed like ours are.  Childish palates are a lot less adventurous too. But perhaps I am biased.

Whose recommendation would you follow?

And please, be reasonable.

Ginger Beef Soup
(serves 6-8)
1 T canola oil
1 ½ lb beef, cut into big chunks
½ lb onions, chopped
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and minced
½ lb celery, sliced
½ lb carrots, peeled and sliced
1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups stock
¼ mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 ½ oz. can coconut milk
1 cup sour cream
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a  medium (3 quart) soup pot, add the beef and sauté for 5-7 minutes before adding the onions, and sautéing for another 5-7 minutes.  Then add the ginger and cook for 3-5 minutes more.
  2. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, stock, coconut milk, sour cream and seasonings, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about an hour.
  3. Serve warm over rice.

Image Credit:  Spicier than Mary Anne composed of an old “Gilligan’s Island” photo and MS Paint. 

Does anyone know why Ginger is a nickname for someone with red hair?  Fresh ginger is at best an off white and candied ginger gets its color from red syrup.  What gives?  If you know the answer, let me know.  Leave a comment. I’ll be reading and responding.

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