Sunday, September 18, 2011

Taco Soup Saga

Think of your favorite taco ingredients added to a flavorful broth, and presto! There you have the basics of Taco Soup, just skip the shredded lettuce. There's Beef Taco Soup, Chicken Taco Soup, Whatever's in the Fridge Taco Soup... you get the picture. My latest version was more in the style of Keep Messing With It Till You Like It Taco Soup. After three days of messing with it, we really did like it today. Finally.

I had created a huge taste challenge by using an unfamiliar brand of jalapeno-flavored canned tomatoes. Oh, oh, oh my! I killed off a few taste buds right there on the spot, just blew those receptors away. Determined not to dump the soup pot, I added some corn, skipped the usual hot sauce, doubled the liquid, and let it rest. Taste Test #1: too fiery, even with a heaping tablespoon of sour cream added to each bowl to temper the heat.  

On day two I tossed in a very large can of black beans, added a can of diced tomatoes in puree (without any jalapenos) and reheated the pot. Taste Test #2: we could eat it without tears, but it was still too peppy, even with the added topping of sour cream.

On day three I browned 1/2 pound of lean ground beef, added some chicken broth and mixed this into the soup pot. Some chopped sweet peppers joined the party. Served with lime-flavored tortilla chips this finally was a good bowl of soup. Taste Test #3: yummy as is, even without the sour cream. 

Note to self: To avoid another three-day soup challenge, be sure to check the heat level of unfamiliar ingredients before adding them to the pot.

Surprise, this Chicken Taco Soup morphed into Beef and Chicken Taco Soup.
Rather than detail my three-day list of ingredients, I'll share a basic recipe I could have followed. Feel free to add your own extra ingredients; frozen corn kernels and beans are recommended. Taco soup should not be difficult, it's a beginning cook's kind of recipe. I no longer refer to a recipe when I make taco soup, but after this week's challenge perhaps I should. 

Chicken Taco Soup

Base recipe: can be adjusted to fit whatever’s in stock. Serves 4-6

1 pound chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, tenders or a mix)
2 cups water or chicken broth (plus some chopped vegetables for flavor)
1 or 2 links hot sausage, cut into thin coins or chunked (optional)
2 Tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each dried cilantro, cumin and oregano
2 cups red salsa or 1 cup salsa & 1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups water or chicken broth

2 or 3 handfuls of tortilla chips (I like lime-flavored Tostitos)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup grated Cotija, Parmesan, Jack or Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crema or sour cream
  1. Poach the chicken in 2 cups liquid with some vegies, etc. (celery leaves, chopped onions, parsley and a few whole peppercorns, etc.) Simmer slowly about 5 min. Remove from the heat, cover and let cool in the cooking broth. Then drain/strain, saving broth. When the chicken is cool, use your fingers to shred the meat into strips and set aside. (OR use leftover cooked chicken OR buy a deli chicken.)
  2. In a pan of water, simmer thin coins from 1 or 2 links of a hot sausage, like chorizo, andouille, hot Italian, etc. (optional – you can double the amount of salsa used instead). Cook about 10 min., discard water and grease. This should decrease the fat and tame the spicy heat, but add flavor.
  3. In a heavy Dutch oven or soup kettle, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft, about 5 min. Add the garlic and sauté until soft, about 2-3 min longer. Stir in the sausage, cilantro, cumin and oregano. Add salsa (or salsa and tomatoes), reserved chicken cooking broth and 4 cups additional chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 10 min to blend the flavors. 
  4. Add the shredded chicken to the pot. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Continue to simmer over medium heat for 3-4 min. (At this point I remove the pan from the burner and let cool. It always tastes better later in the day or especially the next day after the flavors have had time to blend.) Add more chicken broth as needed for consistency, and more salsa as needed for heat.
  5. To serve, reheat and ladle into warmed soup bowls. Top with tortilla chips, fresh cilantro, onion, cheese and a spoonful of crema or sour cream. Serve immediately.
Note: for a heartier meal, serve with cheese quesadillas.

1 comment:

  1. Too funny! but I like the idea of taco soup.


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