When I need a nonalcoholic fog cutter, one of my go-to soups is spicy-sour tom yam. I always use the template
provided by Leela Punyaratabandhu at SheSimmers, partly because it's so easy and adaptable to whatever sort of meat stock I have crowding out the freezer. At that point it's just a matter of thawing it, adding fish sauce, vegetables, meat, chiles, and at the very last minute lime juice and bruised aromatics like lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves—which you should always have stocked in your freezer too (find them at Golden Pacific grocery). Oh yeah, nam prik pao
. You need that too.
On my latest go-around I found myself with a stifling head cold and about a half gallon of leftover duck stock, which called for a pair of duck breasts. I removed their skin and made cracklings for garnish. Then I seared them, sliced them, and added them, super-rare, to the bowl so they'd only poach slightly. It was a significant upgrade on a simple, always satisfying soup.
Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.