In the mood for Chicken Soup!

Let’s talk soup.  Remember that TV show, Talk Soup?  Greg Kinnear was the adorable, sarcastic host who showed clips of daytime TV’s oddest moments and then just reacted to them…that was the whole show…but it was very funny.  I think that it is still on the air, renamed The Soup,  but I haven’t watched it since Greg Kinnear left in the mid 90’s to become a movie star.
Soup, namely chicken soup, is the ultimate comfort food and although there are many to choose from in the soup aisle of the grocery store, none will compare with what you can create at home. Try these and you will see for yourself.  Sorry Progresso.
Beethoven famously once said, “Anyone who tells a lie, has not a pure heart and cannot make great soup.”  He was reportedly dismissing an otherwise decent housekeeper for being untruthful.  Here are three really great chicken soups for the pure of heart among you.
Note: While you can serve each of these soups right after making them, their flavors will really develop if they have at least a few hours to sit, either cooling, covered on the stove top (or refrigerated) and reheated. If you are in a hurry, the Asian Chicken Soup is the one who’s flavors seem to come together the quickest.  And, of course, they are all most excellent on day 2 as well.
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Chicken Tortilla Soup

None of these soups are difficult to make but this one is probably the easiest because I use the meat from a rotisserie chicken.  I’ve been making it for years and just finally wrote down the ingredients and amounts for the first time so that I could post it here.  For entertaining, it is fun to set out lots of toppings…cheese, sour cream, fresh diced tomatoes, green onions, and fried tortilla strips.  But even on a busy weeknight, I take the time to make the tortilla strips because my whole family would be terribly disappointed if I didn’t.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 can petite diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz)
2 cups Spicy V-8 juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and cut into bite sized pieces
4 cups lower sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson’s or College Inn)
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper, if necessary
fresh corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
vegetable oil for frying
Optional toppings:
shredded cheese for garnish (I like Colby/Jack)
chopped fresh green onions
sour cream
chopped fresh cherry tomatoes
For the soup:
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and carrot and saute for several minutes, until onion softens and just start to color.  Add the next 9 ingredients (everything but the black beans) and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20 minutes then add the rinsed black beans and simmer 5 more minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serves 6.
For the tortilla strips:
Prepare several layers of paper towels for draining the strips.  Heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a deep skillet or sauce pan over high heat.  Test to see if the oil is ready by frying one tortilla strip.  It should sizzle immediately and turn golden brown in just a matter of seconds.  Depending on the size of you pan and the amount of strips you are planning to fry, you may have to do this in several batches.  Toss the tortilla strips constantly while frying to brown them evenly and don’t walk away for even a minute as they can quickly burn.  Remove to paper towels to drain, sprinkle lightly with salt while they are hot, then let them cool completely.  Most importantly, make more than you think you will need because while they are excellent on the soup, they are also just a yummy nibble.  They keep well in a zip lock baggie.
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Asian Grilled Sesame Chicken  Soup

I’m not sure how to describe how great this soup is…you just have to try it.  I wanted to re-do the photographs with a slightly higher noodle to broth ratio but the whole batch was gone before I got a chance.  My guy actually made a special trip home for lunch saying that he had been thinking about this soup all morning! This recipe was inspired by one from Bon Appetit (Feb. 2002)

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (divided)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

1 package bean thread noodles (3.75 oz.)
4 cups chopped Napa cabbage (from 1 head)
6 green onions, white and light green parts chopped, dark green parts slivered
8 cups canned lower sodium chicken broth
1 small carrot, shredded
salt if necessary

Mix together soy sauce, dry sherry and 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and pour over chicken breast.  Marinate chicken for 15 minutes in refrigerator. (note:  I like to pound the chicken breasts to create thin, even cutlets that will grill quickly)

Stir together garlic, peanut butter, ginger, vinegar and chili sauce in a small bowl.

Soak the bean thread noodles in very hot water for 10 minutes.  Drain, squeeze out excess moisture, and with a large knife, cut noodles into 2-3 inch sections. Set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add cabbage and chopped green onions and saute until cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add broth and the peanut butter mixture and stir well to combine.  Reduce heat and let simmer gently.

Meanwhile, prepare a grill pan over medium high heat.  Remove the chicken from  the marinade and then pour the marinade into the simmering soup.  Grill the chicken for 5 minutes on each side, or until just cooked throughout.  Slice the chicken thinly across the grain into bite sized pieces and add it to the soup.  Add the cut bean thread noodles, carrot slivers and green pepper slivers and simmer just until everything is heated through and the noodles are tender.  This will only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and taste and adjust seasonings.  Serves 6.

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Brunswick Stoup

This is actually a Brunswick Stew.  I stopped short of thickening it to the consistency of stew, because I prefer it as a soup.  Brunswick Stew apparently originated in the southeast United States and I found many variations in the combinations of proteins that can be used in it.  My boring little version features all white chicken breast because I was plum out of squirrel!  I’ve simplified this family recipe, based on the one in American Family Style, by Mary Randolph Carter, in order to make it a tidy one pot affair.  Thanks to Marinda for inspiring me to make this excellent dish…it’s a keeper!
6 small chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans (14.5 oz.) chopped tomatoes with their juice
4 cups lower salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
cups frozen corn kernels
2 cups frozen baby lima beans
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Wondra flour (quick dissolving)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco and additional Worcestershire sauce to taste, optional
Trim the chicken breasts of any visible fat and cut in half crosswise.  Sprinkle chicken with the paprika and the salt. In a heavy soup pot, melt  1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil over med-high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides and remove from the pot and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot and cook until transparent.  Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, 1 tablespoon of the Worcestershire sauce, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and when the broth is just simmering, return the chicken to the pot, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.  (Be careful to maintain a simmer and don’t let the mixture boil…this will keep the chicken tender as it cooks in the broth)  When the chicken is nice and tender but before it starts to fall apart, remove it from the pot and let cool. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite sized pieces.
Raise the heat under the pot a bit and add the potatoes, corn and lima beans and boil gently until vegetables are tender then return the shredded chicken to the soup.
 In a small bowl, melt the 3 tablespoons butter with the lemon juice, then stir in the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, and the parsley.  Gently stir this mixture into the soup to flavor and thicken the broth.  Remove from heat and taste for seasonings.  Serves 6
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In the mood for Winter Salads!

The good news is that I’ve just seen some bulbs peeking out of the ground and the forsythia is already starting to bloom. The bad news is that our forecast is calling for snow tonight.  This is February in North Carolina. But you won’t hear me complaining…. I’ve spent enough years in the north to appreciate the fact that, around here, spring arrives in March rather than May.
However, for the time being, step away from those tasteless tomatoes you see in the grocery store and enjoy the wonderful possibilities of winter-time salads.  Here are just a few of my favorites.
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Beet Salad with Grilled Red Onions, Goat Cheese, and Kalamata Vinaigrette

 
This hearty salad is adapted from The Oprah Magazine Cookbook and is attributed to Chef Jim Botsacos.  He suggests Manouri Cheese but any goat’s milk cheese will do.  I used goat gouda.
Salad
4 medium red beets, trimmed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red onions, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
salt and pepper
6 cups mixed field greens
6 ounces goat’s cheese
Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive brine (from a jar of kalamata olives)
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut the beets into bite sized pieces, toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and roast on the lined baking sheet until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan and brush the onion slices with remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat until evenly charred and tender, 2-3 minutes per side.
To make vinaigrette:  In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, brine, honey, oregano, salt and pepper.  Gradually add oil, whisking in a thin steady stream until blended.
Toss the greens and cheese together and dress lightly with the vinaigrette.  Top salad with the roasted beets and the grilled onion slices.  Drizzle with additional vinaigrette. Serves 6
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Frisee Salad with Egg and Bacon

This is a Bistro classic in France (Frisee aux Lardons) but this particular recipe is from Tyler Florence’s new book, Tyler Florence Family Meal.
 
1small shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large heads or 5 small heads frisee lettuce, washed and dried
10 thick cut bacon slices, diced
6 eggs
Make the vinaigrette:
Combine first 8 ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake until emulsified.
Over medium low heat, cook the diced bacon until it is crisp, 12-15 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.
Place the eggs in a saucepan with cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately remove from the heat, cover the pan and let the eggs stand in the hot water for exactly 14 minutes.  Drain the eggs and cover with cold water,  Once cool, peel the eggs and halve lengthwise (or slice).
Place the frisee in a big salad bowl and add the bacon.  Add the vinaigrette and toss.  Arrange the hard boiled eggs on top and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
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Arugula with Manchego, Roasted Almonds and Quince Dressing

This wonderful little salad, with the flavors of Spain, is from Big City Cooking, by Matthew Kinney.  Quince paste is a firm jelly-like combination of quince fruit and sugar and can be found in the cheese department of many markets.  I bought mine from Fresh Market but have seen it at Whole Foods as well. And of course, it is also available by mail order sources.  Manchego cheese has become much easier to find in the markets lately… and it is one of my favorites.  But if it is unavailable in your area, big shavings of Parmesan will work as well.
Quince dressing
1/4 cup quince paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches fresh arugula, tough stems removed
4 ounces Manchego cheese, shaved
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
To make the dressing:
Put the quince paste and 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar in a small bowl.  Use a whisk to break up the quince paste, then whisk the mixture to a smooth consistency.  Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of vinegar, the oil, and the lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  The dressing can also be made in a blender but it will emulsify, making it thicker and opaque.  It will taste the same but you may want to thin it with a bit more red wine vinegar.
For the salad:
Just before serving,  toss the arugula with the dressing and most of the shaved cheese and chopped almonds.  If you are using the thicker, emulsified dressing, toss gently so that the leaves do not get weighed down.  Sprinkle with the remaining almonds and shaved cheese and serve.  Serves 4
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