Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Stone Soup

The soup that I made last night was inspired by the story of Stone Soup. If you’ve never heard the story, you should check it out. It has a good moral at the end.

As a volunteer, “stone soup” meals are common. It’s the end of the week, there are a few random vegetables or cans in the kitchen, and somehow the night’s cooks put together a delicious meal. This was especially true last night. We are on spring break, so most of my housemates are out of town. This also means that there were fewer groceries in the house. We basically had whatever was leftover from the week before.

I only needed to cook for two (myself and Peter), but I knew that two of my housemates would be back from chaperoning a group of students late in the evening and might want a bite to eat. I also wanted leftovers so that I wouldn’t have to cook today. So, I made this big pot of soup that could have easily served 8 out of the bits and pieces of things that were in the kitchen. I know it might seem like it has a lot of ingredients, but it was really a little bit of a lot of different ingredients. It was a good recipe for using up things like the few stalks of wilted celery in the fridge and the last couple yellow onions that were starting to go bad.

Chicken Tortilla Stone Soup

The first step is optional. I needed broth or stock if I was going to make soup for dinner and decided to make my own. You definitely do not have to do this, but I did. Here’s how I did it: Washed and coarsely chopped up 3 smallish yellow onions (peels on), 2 medium Idaho potatoes (peels on), 4 stalks of celery, 2 carrots (peels on), 3 cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh parsley. I put all these things in a Dutch oven and covered them with water. I added the following seasonings to the water: 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 bay leaves, ½ teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 tablespoon dried basil. Feel free to adjust the seasonings as much as you like. If I hadn’t had fresh parsley around, I would have used dried. I might have also added oregano. Now, you just put your covered Dutch oven full of goodness on the stove and bring it to a boil. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for at least one hour. I let mine go for about an hour and a half. Once it’s done, strain the broth and throw out the veggies. If you’re like me, you hate to throw out the veggies, but I don’t know what else to do with them. They are no good for adding to your soup because all of their flavor has gone into making your yummy broth. Ok, your stock is done and you can start on the rest of the soup. While you’re starting your soup, your stock can just be put in a bowl or container and set aside. Or you can make your stock ahead of time and store it in the fridge.

Ok, the soup! First, is to make some rice. I cooked ½ cup of rice. Follow your package instructions for making the rice.

Put your Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat and add a couple tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable are fine). Dice one onion (I had half a yellow onion and half a red onion and just used those up) and add it to the pot. Peel and slice 4 carrots and add them to the pot. Dice one bell pepper and add it too. Cook these until they are almost tender, about 5-7 minutes.

In the meantime, heat a skillet with a tablespoon of oil. Chop 1 or 2 chicken breasts or thighs into bite sized pieces. I had two small chicken thighs that needed to be used up, so that’s what I used. You may want a more meaty soup and want to put in 2 or 3 chicken breasts or thighs. Once they are chopped, add them to the skillet and cook them until they are done all the way through.

Back in your Dutch oven, add 2 cloves of garlic, one large (28 oz) can of tomatoes, about a cup of frozen corn, and your desired seasonings. I wanted a spicy, Mexican, tortilla soup, so I added: 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cayenne, and the seeds from 5 or 6 dried chili de arbol pods. This might sound like a lot of spice, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly spicy. If I had had cilantro, I would have gone lighter on the chili powder and skipped the chili de arbol altogether and just added a bunch of cilantro. Add your stock to the pot. You should have about 4 to 6 cups of stock. If you didn’t make your own veggie stock, store bought is fine. Chicken stock would be equally great.

Bring the pot up to a boil. Then add your cooked rice and chicken. Allow your pot to simmer for at least 10 minutes to let the flavors combine. It could easily simmer for much longer, if you wanted. We served ours with a little Mexican style sour cream (simply called crema), shredded colby cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

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