Chicken Tortilla Soup

May 3, 2011

It is Mexican food week at our house.  No, not really because of Cinco de Mayo.  The truth is we just really like to eat just about anything Mexican- traditional or inspired.  We have been eating carnitas, homemade refried beans, chorizo empanadas, and now for the third time this month, Chicken Tortilla Soup.

This recipe comes from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday.  If you have not checked out this book, you should.  It is definitely one of our favorites.  We happened across it in the kitchen of a house we rented in Nayarit, Mexico years ago.  My husband and I both loved it, and the meals we created from it so much, that we both surprised the other with a copy of it for Christmas that year.  Oops.

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There are recipes I love, because the flavors produced are so unlike those I am apt to make on my own. There are recipes I love, because the technique is new to me and create an utterly delicious dish using a method I have never tried.  This recipe fulfills both of those criteria.  Though my family loves Indian food, I admit to being hung up on a few standard curries and dals that are regulars in our kitchen. This dish, though it uses familiar ingredients, is unlike any I have made in the past.  Garam masala and ginger infuse the sauce of Divine Indian Butter Chicken with exciting flavor. The garlic, bay, cardamom, and cloves simmer slowly with the tomatoes deeply infusing the sauce with even more flavor.  Top that off with butter and milk (or cream as the original recipe suggests) and you have a silky, spicy, delectable bath for the tenderest of chicken.

The chicken first spends many hours soaking in a tangy marinade of yogurt, ginger, garlic, and garam masala.  Yogurt tenderizes the meat as it soaks.  The next step surprised me.  The chicken is roasted at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.  Never have I thought to use that kind of extreme heat on an ultimately braised chicken dish.  The chicken finishes cooking in the fragrant tomato sauce.  My first bite dispelled any skepticism I may have harbored regarding the roasting technique.  This chicken is so incredibly tender and moist!  The dark meat falls from the bone and the breast slices up beautifully and melts in your mouth.  What is more, this is a perfect dish to make ahead.  Simply prepare the dish and keep it warm and covered until ready to serve.  You can also cool the dish, refrigerate, and heat up when you are ready.  Serve with basmati rice and chutney.  Here is a great recipe for homemade chutney.

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We all have those meals that are burned in our memory for one reason or another.  These are the meals that when we recall them, define a time in our lives.  Though I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, chicken pot pie is one of those meals for me.  Occasionally my parents would leave me at home to go out for the night.  I was always excited, because I could have a frozen dinner (those were not common fare in our home).  One of my favorite dinners was always a chicken pot pie.  I loved the creamy chicken and the flaky crust.  Invariably, I burnt my anxious tongue on the steaming hot sauce.  Those hot little pies were the highlight of my night. Even so, I always knew that the dish was not quite right.  The chicken and vegetables were too small and uniformly cut.  The sauce was too salty.  The crust too bland.  At that time, it never occurred to me that this special meal could be made at home!

Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie is my effort to right the wrongs of pot pies of my past that missed the mark.  Every ingredient and every step come together to create what I imagine a pot pie should be like.  The chicken is poached in broth, then cut into large tender pieces, so there is no mistaking its presence.  The vegetables are abundant and fresh.  The potatoes are creamy. The sauce is based on a homemade chicken stock that is reduced and mixed with fresh thyme and cream.  The potential of this dish is dependent on the quality of the broth used.  I highly recommend using your own stock.  It is so easy to make and the flavor is incomparable.

Oh, and the topping.  Though I do love pie crust atop meat pies, biscuits are my favorite.  Floating the biscuits on the pot pie allows the tops to brown and puff and the bottom to saturate with the rich gravy.  It is the best of both worlds.  This is definitely a comfort food.

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Southwestern Chicken Burger

February 8, 2011

Burgers are good…really good. They are the kind of quick dinner that never seems like a cop out.  I can spend 30 minutes cooking dinner and everyone is thrilled.  We like to eat all kinds of burgers, experimenting with different types of meat: beef, pork, chicken, or turkey, and  many different flavor combinations.  When cooking up burgers with chicken or turkey, I mix in egg, bread crumbs, and herbs, all which help keep the burgers moist.   This burger recipe is one of our favorites.

Southwestern Chicken Burgers are super moist and flavorful.  The mild taste of the ground chicken allows the garlic, cilantro, green onion, and spices to do their magic.  This burger is packed with flavor and is sure to delight even the most die-hard beef burger fans. Layer the toasted buns with spicy, smokey chipotle mayonnaise and Caramelized Onion Relish. If you don’t have a grill, these burgers would be equally tasty cooked up in a skillet with a little olive oil.

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