Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last night's dinner was the perfect preface...

...To today's weather - just a twinge of cool to contrast the toasty warmth of direct sun on your back, the grass still damp and cold from the rain.

I decided last night was Homemade Tortilla Soup night, so I whipped up a delicious pot from scratch. I don't think I've ever made homemade tortilla soup. It turned out wonderfully though, if I do say so myself. ;)

Start with ...

3 chicken leg pieces (leg/thigh) in a large pot of water over high heat with a sprinkle of salt. Let it boil til the chicken is cooked through (45 minutes or so) then lower the heat to medium-high and remove the chicken to a plate to cool.

If you're like me and now have less than 1/2 a pot of broth left after removing the chicken, add a box of store-bought broth to fill the pot up a bit more.

NOTE: Store-bought broth is a suitable supplement to homemade broth; as a stand-alone, I don't feel like it has the best flavor though. I always make my own broth to start out and then add boxed broth if needed.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare...

1/2 white onion
2 fresh jalapeno peppers
4 fresh garlic cloves
1/2 can black olives
Dice all of these medium/small and add to the pot of broth.

The stir in ...

1 can corn/pimento (I think it's called 'Mexican Corn Medley' or something like that - I got mine at Aldi)
1 large can crushed tomatoes

NOTE(S): 1. Prepping jalapenos should be done with care since the membrane and the seeds are what make the pepper hot and the act of removing them can leave residue on your hands/nails. Wash your hands before and after and use a spoon to scoop the seeds out and scrape the sides free of the membrane, aka placenta, which is where the capsaisin lives. 2. A trick I use before chopping fresh garlic is to soak the cloves in water for a few minutes. This softens the skin and makes it much easier to separate them from the garlic itself. Remove the garlic from the water and smash with the flat of your knife, separate the skin, then chop the garlic.

Let all of this boil for a while - til the onions and peppers are soft. As this is happening, add the following seasonings to taste ...

Crushed Red Pepper
Chili Powder
Cumin Powder
Dried Oregano

The red pepper really bumps up the heat so don't add much if you like your soup more mild.

Once the chicken has cooled, remove from the bones (carefully since there are lots of smaller bones that can make it into your dish if you're not watchful!) and then chop down to bite size. Add this to the soup, or keep on the side and add as a topping if you have guests who don't eat meat - you could easily sub the chicken broth for a vegetable broth, too.

And that's pretty much it. Easy as can be! Once the soup has come together and the veggies are soft and the broth is just as hot as you like it, turn off the stove. Let your soup cool for a few minutes and construct a bowl as follows:

Ladle soup into a bowl and add toppings...

fresh Avocado, diced
Crushed tortilla chips (or you can be really entrepreneurial and make your own out of sliced corn tortillas and some vegetable oil on the stove)
fresh chopped Cilantro (unfortunately I didn't have any cilantro this time)
Monterrey Jack cheese

Eat until you are full! ;)

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