This week, we take a recipe from the current season of Top Chef — “Top Chef Texas” — and give it the Clean Plates treatment: we swap in better-for-you ingredients without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. Cozy up to our makeover of contestant Molly Brandt’s Smoked Sweet Potato Soup with Pork Cheek & Tequila Cilantro Lime Cream:
Swap conventionally grown sweet potatoes for organic to increase vitamins and minerals while minimizing exposure to residual pesticides and chemicals.
Increase flavor and avoid additives by making your own chicken stock: In a large pot, place 1 (3-lb) chicken, 2 carrots (peeled and chopped in a large dice), 2 stalks celery, 1 yellow onion (peeled and quartered), 1 bay leaf, 5 sprigs thyme, 5 sprigs fresh parsley and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours, skimming the foam. Strain the entire contents through a colander and discard the solids. If you’re crunched for time, no problem: choose store-bought, organic, sodium-free chicken stock.
Choose organic, grass-fed nitrate-free pork cheeks in lieu of conventional varieties. If you can’t find pork cheeks in your area, pork shoulder is a delicious substitute.
Replace regular heavy cream with organic heavy cream from grass-fed cows not injected with antibiotics or hormones. To find organic heavy cream from pasture-raised cows in your area, check out the Real Milk website. If you’re allergic to milk, replace with non-dairy organic, unsweetened almond or coconut milk.
Substitute organic palm sugar or local organic raw honey for brown sugar. Both are all-natural and unrefined lower-glycemic sweeteners packed with nutrients.
Swap out processed table salt for mineral-rich and toxin-free Himalayan crystal salt.
Replace liquid smoke with steeped Lapsang Souchong, a black Chinese tea smoked over pine leaves. To use the tea in place of liquid smoke, pour boiling water over the tea leaves and let steep for five to seven minutes. If that’s too ambitious, you can also substitute smoked paprika or chipotle powder, to taste.
Substitute tomato paste with organic tomato purée made from fresh organic tomatoes to boost antioxidants and lower sodium. To make: boil tomato purée until reduced by half.
Minimize mold and other contaminants commonly found in peanuts and choose organic. If you are allergic to nuts, try nutrient-packed organic sunflower seeds as a garnish.
Boost your antioxidant levels and protect against disease (while helping your skin glow) with organic extra virgin olive oil instead of canola oil — canola is a highly refined GMO (genetically modified organism) crop treated with herbicides, pesticides and other harmful synthetic chemicals.
Support organic tequila producers and look for certified organic tequila anejo.
You can also make this dish vegan by substituting organic vegetable stock for chicken stock, replacing the heavy cream with unsweetened organic almond or coconut milk, and leaving out the pork cheeks.
Check out our past recipe makeovers:
Got a recipe you’d like us to give the Clean Plates treatment? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo by Flickr user Anatoli Axelrod