Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Gourmet" Meal for mom

One of the wonderful things about being back in Wisconsin is having family nearby. Although it is still an hour+ drive, it is reasonable to plan in advance for a free babysitter (who loves to see her grandchildren). While talking to my mom about coming to watch the kids while I went to an appointment she mentioned something about me preparing her a gourmet meal for lunch. Okay, so that sounds like sufficient payment, right? I told her that we would be having left-over Tortilla Soup and she seemed fine with that. After having the soup she commented on how good it was and asked for the recipe. It's such a simple (and cheap) soup to make I don't think twice about making it. Given that it is a chicken broth soup, this could be great for cold season and a nice change from your typical chicken noodle soup. I think the original recipe came from Cooking Light magazine many years ago. I'm not even sure where the recipe is, I just throw some ingredients together and VOILA! Out comes Tortilla Soup.

Tortilla Soup
half of a whole cut up chicken (or two breasts - with bones in)
small onion, chopped
4+ cloves garlic, minced or sliced
1 cup dried beans (soaked overnight and drained) or 2 cans beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can green chiles (mild or medium)
splash of vinegar
salt to taste
spice to taste (cayenne pepper, jalepenos, etc.)
corn tortillas
sour cream
chopped jalepenos

I like to make this in the crockpot throughout the day, but you can do it on the stove in less time too. Soak the dry beans (I used navy beans, but any kind can be used) overnight and drain the water in the morning or before cooking. Place chicken (with or without skin on) in crockpot (or stockpot) with dried beans, onion and garlic then cover with water (as much as you want - probably 6-8 cups). If you use white meat only and remove the skin, keep a careful eye on the chicken so that it doesn't dry out. Turn crockpot on high or bring stockpot to a boil. When boiling, remove foam from top of soup and add a splash of vinegar (any kind is fine). The vinegar will help remove the nutrients from the bones of the chicken and add them to your soup! When the chicken looks fully cooked (check with thermometer or cut open to verify fully cooked), remove it from the soup and allow it to cool. Check the doneness of the beans (if using canned beans, do not add them to the soup until the chicken has been fully cooked - otherwise they will get too mushy). When cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones from chicken and shred. When the beans are soft, add tomatoes (feel free to get some with mexican spices/seasonings or do your own spice enhancing), chiles, cilantro stems (chopped or tied with string for removal), cayenne pepper or jalepenos to taste, salt to taste and return chicken to pot. Allow soup to simmer for 20-30 minutes to meld flavors.

While soup is simmering, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4-6 corn tortillas into strips and lie flat on a baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes until crispy. Grate or crumble cheese of your choice. I used queso fresco for this soup, it is a low fat mexican cheese, but we have used colby jack and other cheese in the past. Chop cilantro leaves and avocadoes. Ladle some soup into a bowl and top with your desired condiments - breaking up the tortillas on top (or at the bottom) of the bowl. Dig in and enjoy!

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