TND – Two Weeks Ago . . . Or, My Not So Secret Vice

March 28, 2012

My not particularly secret vice (?) passion (?) weakness (?) is soup. I eat soup almost every day for lunch, and if I didn’t strictly edit myself we’d eat it probably twice a week for dinner as well. As it is, I’d guess that we eat some form of soup for dinner about every 10 days.

For lunch I make soup that can be sipped out of a mug at my desk – basil-zucchini, curried coconut carrot, cauliflower, sweet potato & pear, roasted butternut squash & apple. For dinner I tend to go a slightly heartier route (although I am by no means opposed to a bowl pureed vegetable soup, a salad, bread & cheese) and make soups that are essentially one pot meals – beef, leek & barley, sweet potato and sausage, black bean & pumpkin with ham, gingery split pea.

I’m not entirely sure I can tell you why I like soup so much. There’s just something very homey and comforting about it, although it can certainly be dressed up and fancified if the occasion calls for it. And, while curling up with a steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter’s night is pretty much my definition of comfort food, I eat soup all year long – fresh tomato soups that taste like Summer in a bowl, bacon topped corn soups that capture the glory of early Fall in New England, cool watermelon gazpachos that remind me of vacations past.

For these purposes I’m not including stews, braises, or chilis in my definition of soup – although there is a lot of cross over in the appeal. They can all be made in advance, and all should definitely be served with crusty bread and butter for the purposes of dipping and scooping. Also, (most) soup freezes beautifully and can be stockpiled against the night when you’re exhausted and don’t have anything in the house that can be made into dinner in a reasonable amount of time, but don’t want to call for take out. This is when you grab a container of soup from your freezer, and throw together a salad and slice some bread while the soup comes up to a simmer in a pot on your stove. A home cooked meal in minutes with minimal effort on your part always feels a little like magic.

Having said all that, however, this week’s menu is actually brought to you by a deep seated craving for yogurt biscuits and a need to have something to serve with them that wouldn’t need to be in the oven at the same time they were baking, and wouldn’t make me feel too guilty about reaching for a third biscuit and slathering it in butter and jam.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Yogurt Biscuits

Chicken Tortilla Soup
(serves 8-10)

Okay, so a couple of things here. One, the original recipe has you cook a chicken to make chicken stock and then strain the stock, shred the meat off of the chicken and use that meat in the soup. This is a classic method for chicken soup which has never ever worked for me. I find that by the time I’ve boiled chicken for the 3-4 hours necessary to achieve a flavorful chicken stock the meat isn’t something I really want to eat. And, if you simmer the chicken for the 25-35 minutes that results in tender meat then you have stock that tastes of nothing. So, I tend to buy some cheap bone-in chicken (usually legs), roast it off in the oven because I like stock made with roasted chicken more than I like stock made with raw chicken, and then cook my stock. I then roast 2-3 bone-in chicken breasts, shred the meat off the bone and use that in the soup. More complicated, but does result in both flavorful broth + chicken I want to eat in my soup. If you already have 10-12 cups of chicken stock lying around you could skip all of this and just use that.

Two, this makes a lot of soup, and aggravatingly the spice base that gives it all the flavor doesn’t divide down in any useful kind of way. What I tend to do is make all the spice base, use 1/3 of it to serve 2 of us (+ lunch the next day for someone) and freeze the other 2/3 of it for future use. This also means that making this soup in the future is that much less work.

Three, you can go the traditional route and slice tortillas into strips and fry them in hot vegetable oil to make the garnish. Or, you can brush each tortilla with some olive oil and salt/pepper/cinnamon, slice them into strips, and then bake them in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes, turning once (this is my vote – much less messy).

Soup Base
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2-3 lb bone-in chicken parts
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
3 1/2 quart cold water
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp dried oregano
(or 25 cilantro stems)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Toss your chicken parts with some salt, pepper, oregano and olive oil. Roast in a 375 oven for 35-40 minutes, or until done.

Place roasted chicken and any juices in a large stock pot, add all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 2-3 hours or until it has achieved depth of flavor.

Strain the stock. Reserve 1 cup, and return the rest to the pot.

Can be made 2-3 days in advance, cool and then refrigerate.

Spice Puree
3 whole allspice
1 whole clove
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp black peppercorns
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1-2 chipotles in adobo, finely chopped
2 ½ tsp salt

Toast spices in a dry small skillet (not nonstick) over medium-low heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 2 minutes.

Transfer spices to a blender along with onion, garlic, chipotles with adobo sauce, salt, and reserved stock.

Blend until mixture is smooth and spices are ground, about 2 minutes (use caution when blending hot liquids).

To Finish Soup
1 cup brown rice
1 ½ lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained & rinsed

Bring the soup up to a simmer. Add the spice puree and rice. Cook for 30-40 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and continue to cook for an additional 15-20 minutes until the sweet potatoes and rice are tender. Add the black beans and shredded chicken and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until all is heated through.

Serve with:
Finely sliced radishes
Diced avocado
Chopped basil (or cilantro if you must)
Crumbled cojita cheese (or, in my case, ricotta salata which is my usual stand in for cojita)
Finely sliced cabbage
Toasted tortilla strips (see above)

Yogurt Biscuits
So deceptively healthy seeming with all that yogurt and whole wheat flour. So, so not actually healthy with all that tasty tasty butter. I was having a jam craving, so I served these with a spicy tomato jam, and with a fig and orange jam.

Recipe previously given: No Parade for Me

Salad (w/ apples, fennel & candied pumpkin seeds)

Recipe for candied pumpkin seeds previously given: No Parade for Me


One comment

  1. […] Recipe previously given: My Not So Secret Vice […]

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