Chicken Tortilla Soup

When it gets cold, it seems that I love soup. Fortunately, my soup-disliking boyfriend is a trooper and puts up with my incessant soup making. His caveat, being a spice-aholic, is that my soups are “flavorful” (read: spicy). Fortunately, this is both flavorful and spicy and has quickly become one of my favorite recipes, period. Conveniently, it’s also a great use of leftovers and is magnificently adaptable to whatever happens to require immediate using. In fact, I’ve never made it the exact same way twice.

If you don’t like the heat (or even if you don’t like sweating while you eat) decrease the chile peppers to your taste. The chipotle adds a nice smoky heat that I’d try to keep in there.

Also, I like my soups pretty thick. If you want it more soup-y, use fewer tortillas.

Ingredients

For the soup:

1 T grapeseed oil
a stack of corn tortillas about 1″ thick
2 lbs chicken, trimmed of fat and skin
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2 fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks
4 chile japones (de arbol)
1 chipotle chile
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 T minced garlic
2 t cumin
1 t Spanish hot paprika
2-3 t salt, to taste
4-5 c water
1 lime
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 c frozen corn

Toppings:

2 avocados, diced
cilantro
shredded cheese

Prep work:

Your knife work doesn’t have to be perfect because you’ll blend it later.

Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and give the tomato a rough chop. Also, I cut my chiles into big pieces so the full heat would escape from the beginning and I could adjust my seasonings accordingly.

Cut the tortillas into about 1″ pieces.

To cook:

Heat the oil over medium heat.

Saute your onions for about 2-3 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Add garlic and chiles, and saute for another 30 seconds or so.

Add the squares of tortilla and saute until they’ve absorbed the moisture.

Add tomatoes, fresh and canned to the pot. At this point, if you’re using raw chicken, add that. If your chicken is already cooked, you can wait until the end.

Add about 4 cups of water, cumin, paprika, and salt. Cover, and let simmer. If you’re cooking raw chicken, simmer until cooked thoroughly and fork-tender, about 1 hour. If you’re using cooked chicken, you can really cook it as long or little as you like. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking.

Just before the soup is done, remove chicken if you cooked it in the stock. Dice or shred the chicken you’re using.

Blend your stock until it’s completely smooth. Depending on the size of your blender, you may need to do it multiple batches.

Add stock back into the pot. To your soup, add your chicken, corn, black beans, and juice of one lime.

To serve, top with diced avocado, shredded cheese, and cilantro. I’m sure sour cream would also be delicious.

Total cook time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Medium

Posted in Gluten Free, Mexican, Central, and South American, Soup | Leave a comment

Whole Wheat Tortillas

It’s a poorly kept secret that I adore fresh tortillas, and I’m constantly on the lookout for the best recipe. I’d found some really great tortillas on the internet, but they always had some flaw (or maybe it was my cooking). Fortunately, sorting through my grandmother’s cookbook library, I found a cookbook titled Gourmet Tortillas: Exotic and Traditional Tortilla Dishes. Now, they had my attention at “tortillas,” but flipping through the pages, I was totally won over. I made the whole wheat tortillas, and they were delicious. They rolled easily, too, which has always been a problem for me. The next time you’re tempted to buy tortillas in a plastic bag from the store, don’t. Make these instead. You won’t be sorry!

Ingredients
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 3/4 c white flour
3/4 t salt
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 T vegetable shortening
3/4 c plus 2 T water

Sift your dry ingredients into a medium-sized bowl.

Cut the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles course meal. Hint: you can use a food processor if you have one handy.

Add the water to the flour mixture all at once, and mix well. If it’s too wet, add more flour a teaspoon at a time. If it’s too dry, add water a teaspoon at a time.

Ultimately, the dough should hold together but not stick to your hands.

Divide your tortillas into eight equal balls, and heat a cast iron skillet or griddle pan to about medium-high.

Flour your work surface, and roll the tortillas into thin rounds (don’t worry, homemade tortillas are characteristically imperfectly shaped).

Cook each tortilla for about 30 seconds on each side. Unlike white tortillas, you don’t want to get those beautiful brown and black spots on whole wheat tortillas, so keep an eye on how they’re cooking.

We had tacos one night and enchiladas another with these tortillas, but they’d be great in plenty of other ways.

Posted in Bread, Mexican, Central, and South American | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tuna Ceviche


When I was in Peru several years ago, one of my favorite memories is of some ceviche I ate while passing through an adorable coastal town. The restaurant was in a long line of open air shops that sat about 100 feet back from the water. We sat on the patio and had the most amazing ceviche appetizers to the sound of waves breaking on the shore. I don’t remember the rest of the dinner, but I haven’t been able to forget the ceviche. After dinner, we all played volleyball and then camped on the beach. I can’t recreate the volleyball and the camping for you, and I certainly put my own spin on Peruvian ceviche, but this was delicious. This recipe serves two, but it can easily be multiplied for as many servings as you want.

Ingredients

1/2 lb sashimi-grade tuna
3 limes
5-7 kumquats
1/4 small red onion, sliced thin
1 jalapeño, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 sprigs cilantro, chopped fine
3 t white wine vinegar
1 t kosher salt
1 avocado (optional)

Traditionally, Peruvian ceviche is made with various types of white fish. However, at the grocery store where I was, the tuna looked much better. Go with what looks great to you. Either way, you’ll want to dice the fish into bite-size pieces, with slices that are thin and long, as opposed to perfectly square.

Using a citrus reamer, squeeze the juice of three limes over the tuna. Next, thinly slice the kumquats and red onion, and add to your tuna.

Finely mince the jalapeño and garlic, and toss into the ceviche. Chop up the cilantro, and add to the mixture. Pour the white wine vinegar and salt over the ingredients, toss and let marinate for at least an hour. The color of the fish will actually lighten as the acid cooks it.

To serve, garnish with fresh cilantro and avocado slices if you want. I really loved the creamy avocado to cut the acid, but Bryan preferred it without, so go with what works for you. Enjoy!

Posted in Fish, Mexican, Central, and South American | 1 Comment

Lexington Avenue Brewery (The LAB)

Located in downtown Asheville, the front of The LAB is rather unassuming. A few metal tables on its covered patio and a small sign reading “The LAB” are all that mark this fantastic restaurant. However easy it is to miss visually, the amazing smells wafting from their kitchen are hard to walk past.

Even at lunch, when Bryan and I went, there are people at the heavy wooden bar sipping on the house brewed beers. Of course, plenty of folks were enjoying the delicious fare, which can best be described as fresh, local ingredients applied to traditional world cuisine. The decor, industrial chic, gives a warmth to this home-grown Asheville restaurant.

As cool as the restaurant feels, the menu absolutely lives up to the vibe. Bryan and I shared a baked brie appetizer made with goat brie from a local cheese-maker, The Looking Glass Creamery. The accoutrements to the dish included candied papaya and hazelnut brittle, neither of which either of us had ever tasted before. We also had their jerked frog legs. Now, I’ll be honest and tell you that before The LAB, I thought I hated frog legs. I’d had them before, in a well-known Charleston restaurant, where I’m sure they were well-prepared. Unfortunately, the flavor was underwhelming for me. However, The LAB had cooked theirs absolutely perfectly, rendering tender frog legs, and they were seasoned deliciously. I was impressed. The appetizers, fortunately, were indicative of their food philosophy: master the rules, and then break them.

The meal continued beautifully. I had North Carolina mountain trout battered in their house brewed Pale Ale, served in warm corn tortillas, and topped with a jicama slaw. In case I needed more heat, I was provided two options: ground, fresh jalapeño served in half a jalapeño or a smoky chipotle sauce, made in house. Both were delicious. Bryan had their duck confit, which he says was seasoned better than any he’s ever had (and he’s quite the connoisseur). I must say, both entrees were fantastic.

We also made sure to sample all the beers they brew, made even cooler by the fact that we could watch them being brewed. They were wonderful. I’m typically a wheat beer drinker, and their white ale was fantastic. Bryan loved their Oktoberfest, and we both agreed that their stout was delicious. Not that there was a bad beer on the menu, of course: we finished the sampler with no problem.

Unfortunately, because of our dedication to a full report on their infamous beers, we were too full to try any of their desserts, but they looked divine. I would absolutely recommend checking out The LAB at the first chance you get!

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Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is a classic French dish that was created as a way to cook up old roosters that had passed their prime. Because it was really a housewife’s dish, there isn’t a hard-and-fast recipe. A few key ingredients are standard, like a mirepoix, pearl onions, tougher cuts of chicken (either a stewing chicken or just the legs and thighs in a modern market), and of course wine, but the seasonings and other alcohol are up for interpretation.

As I was cooking, it looked like a ton of food, but Bryan and I polished it off without a problem. It was absolutely delicious, especially with the veggies from the pot and some roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

I portioned this for two, but it can easily be adjusted based on how many people you’re serving.

Ingredients

1 lb chicken legs and thighs
3-4 pieces good quality bacon or pancetta
4-5 T AP flour
2 ribs celery
2 carrots
2 small shallots
12-14 pearl onions
1/2 bottle Pinot Noir (Burgundy or other dry red works as well)
3 T cognac
2-3 c good quality chicken stock (I use Swanson’s low-sodium if I don’t have homemade)
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
3-4 T olive oil
1 T dried thyme
1 T dried sage
1 t celery salt
1 bay leaf

Season the chicken with salt and pepper while heating olive oil in a cast iron skillet or other deep, heavy-bottomed pan. Once the oil is hot, lightly flour the chicken, and put it straight in the pan. If you pre-flour and let it sit, it runs the risk of becoming gummy. Brown the chicken on both sides, and remove from the pan.

Slice the bacon into 1/2″ strips, and fry until crispy in the leftover chicken juice, adding more oil if necessary. Remove from pan and set aside.

Slice the shallots, carrots, and onions, and add to bacon grease, sauteing until soft, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the cognac, and let it burn off for about one minute, then deglaze with the wine. Add the chicken and bacon back into the pan, and cover with chicken stock. Add the herbs to your pot, and bring to a boil.

Cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer for about an hour, until the chicken is deliciously tender.

Serve with veggies from the pot and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Yum.

Posted in Poultry | Leave a comment

Chili-Chocolate Souffle

The Daring Cooks this month took on quite a daring challenge: souffle. It’s considered one of the most challenging and finicky deserts to make, so I was super excited to test my culinary prowess. Turns out it’s actually not nearly as difficult as people assume. The biggest difficulty is really in making sure it’s served within 2 minutes or so of coming out of the oven–before it starts to fall. So be daring, and make souffle! It was absolutely divine!

Ingredients
Recipe from BBC Good Food

For the dishes:

2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30g) unsalted butter, for greasing
Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate

For the Creme Patisserie

2 T all-purpose flour
2 t caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK, especially if you throw it in a food processor)
½ t corn starch
1 medium egg yolk
1 medium whole egg
4 T milk
5 T heavy cream (or double cream)
3 oz  good-quality dark chocolate preferably 70+% cocoa solids, broken in pieces
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t chili powder

For the egg whites:

6 medium egg whites
6½ T superfine/caster sugar (if you don’t have it, regular sugar is OK)

Heat oven to 375 ˚F
Take four 1 cup/~240ml soufflé dishes and brush them completely with softened butter.

Tip a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tilting it as you do so it is evenly lined all round.
For the crème patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch into a small bowl.

Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium sized bowl and beat lightly.

Beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste.

Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.

To make the ganache, pour the milk and cream into a pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.

Gradually stir hot chocolate ganache into the paste from step 3, and add the orange zest or chile if using. This is your crème patisserie.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk. Sprinkle in the sugar as you are mixing. Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peaks to give volume to the soufflés.

Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the crème patisserie. Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.

Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat. Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.

Bake the soufflés for 15-17 minutes.

The soufflés should have risen by about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.

Posted in Daring Cooks, Dessert | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Beef Carnitas

My love of Latin food is a very poorly kept secret. In fact, when I’m sick, I tend to crave Mexican food. Fortunately (for you, at least), I’ve had a cold for the past week or so, which means spicy beef carnitas were in the works. Carnitas literally translates to “little meats” or “little beefs,” but it really refers to a dish in which a tough cut of beef or pork has been slow cooked and then shredded. These were super cheap, easy, and plentiful for us to make: it’s a tough combination to beat!

Ingredients

2-3 lb chuck roast
1 T cumin
1 t curry powder
2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
2 T taco seasoning
1 T chili powder (mine isn’t very spicy, so adjust to your taste)
2 t cayenne (again, mine isn’t too hot)
2 c chicken broth
6 Thai bird’s eye chilies, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced

Mix the dry ingredients together, and rub into the meat.

In a large dutch oven, heat several tablespoons of vegetable or peanut oil just until shimmering. Once hot, place the roast in the pan, and sear until dark on all sides. Don’t be afraid to let it blacken in some spots; that’ll become a flavorful bark in the carnitas.

Once your roast has a nice dark crust on it, take it out of the plan and set aside while the pan cools for a few minutes. Drizzle in some olive oil, and saute the chilies and garlic until fragrant, only about a minute. Pour in two cups of chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Add the roast into the broth, tightly cover with aluminum foil and then with the dutch oven lid, and bake at 350°F for 1 1/2 hours, or until cooked through and tender.

Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, then shred or finely slice into the sauce.

I served mine over corn masa cakes and topped with a cilantro chimichurri. Delicious.

Posted in Beef | Tagged , , | Leave a comment