Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mexican Chicken Soup - Bright and Beautiful Flavours

Twenty years ago, Sydney journalist David Dale published a list of rules to help people who had never eaten in Australia find a good restaurant. Over time they have been refined, but here is some of the current list:
1. Never eat in a restaurant that revolves or floats.
2. Never eat in a restaurant that is more than 20 metres above the ground.
3. A restaurant with a pepper grinder on every table is likely to be good.
4. A restaurant with an accordionist is likely to be bad.
5. There is no such thing as a bad Thai restaurant in Australia.
6. There is no such thing as a good Mexican restaurant in Australia.
7. The longer the menu, the poorer the food -- except in Chinese restaurants.
8. A restaurant in which one wall is covered with signed black and white photographs of celebrities is unlikely to be state of the art.
9. Restaurants advertising karaoke are unlikely to be gastronomic temples, but this will become less important as you become less sober.
10. Restaurants that display their menus outside are likely to be more interesting than those that don't (and also make the application of these theories much easier).

And you see, Rule 6 is my problem: while there now may be some good Mexican restaurants in Australia, there aren't many and I have never eaten in any of them. My experience of Mexican food really begins and ends with tacos (something I know will have to change...) Which brings me to today's Barefoot Challenge: Mexican Chicken Soup. I wasn't sure if I was even going to make it, but decided to put it to the team. I told the family I was going to make a soup which used taco flavours, and they seemed keen enough to try it, for me to decide to go ahead and do it. I was really happy I did. This soup was very tasty and easy to make. And for me, very different!

Apart from some minor changes, and halving the amounts, I made the recipe as written, which was easily enough for four of us for dinner. I used chicken thighs instead of breasts (finding breasts here on the bone with skin is impossible), and substituted a single birds eye chilli (seeded) for the jalapeno chillis (also hard to find here). This gave the soup a nice background warmth without much heat. Even the kids had to ask whether or not there was any chilli. I also used the full amount of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) because I love it in anything! Thanks to Judy from Judy's Gross Eats for the pick this week - you have prompted me to try making some more Mexican food!

PS Happy Thanksgiving!

Mexican Chicken Soup
from "Barefoot Contessa at Home" by Ina Garten
4 chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas
Garnishes: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.


Judy said...

Glad all of you enjoyed it. I'm making it tonight for dinner. Over here, Mexican food varies restaurant by restaurant, region by region, so it really ends up depending on what kind of taste you want.

Becky said...

Suzie, I'm so glad you got to make this. When we lived in Texas we got great Mexican food all the time. Then we moved to Alabama and the choices were not so good. That has changed, but I still like to make Mexican food at home. Ina's recipe really was good for us. I liked how fresh it tasted with the cilantro added.

Patty said...

Ummmm....I miss Mexican so much...this looks like a great recipe so will give it a try...will have to see if I have any old mexican recipes left from my days in NY for you.


PS I can remember a floating restaurant once in your life!

Meryl said...

Yum! Yours is so red and pretty!

Debinhawaii said...

Its hard to find good Mexican food here too. Glad you liked the soup--I did too. And extra cilantro is always the way to go!

Kirsten said...

Your soup looks so fresh! I don't know what I'd do without good Mexican food close by!

Andrea said...

Your soup looks wonderful! I'm sorry there aren't many Mexican restaurants in Australia, they are one of our favorite 'genres' of dining out here. We lived in Texas for a year and there were amazing Mexican restaurants down there, up here the choices are fewer but usually high quality (or they don't stay opened for long.) Great photo, makes me sorry I forgot the avocado on top.

Cathy said...

I love, love, love the "restaurant rules.". Many of them would probably hold true in many countries! I'm so glad you liked this soup. We enjoyed it too - extra cilantro for me as well!

Bellini Valli said...

I had some leftovers and liked Lisa's idea of adding corn and black beans. It was delicious wasn't it:D

Esi said...

I'm glad you liked this! I live among some of the best Mexican foods and thought this was pretty true to form. Oh, and I totally agree...cilantro should be in everything!

Summer said...

That list is hilarious. I'd add not eating anywhere with pictures on the menu. Glad you liked this, real Mexican food is great. Especially with cilantro.

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

I love that list! I'm so glad you shared it - there are a lot of truisms there for Atlanta too. Happy everyone liked it!

Summer said...

One more thing... I tagged you today on my blog. Best, Summer

Sophie said...

That looks so good! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving :)!

Peggy said...

Your photo is great! I'm so sorry you don't have good mexican restaurants there. I love mexican food. I am glad, however, that you liked the soup! Sounds like something you are going to have to make over and over!

Lorraine E said...

I agree with some of those points although there are some not so great Thai places too and agreed there are some good Mexican places now.

The soup looks great! :)

Prudy said...

I made my soup last night and it was yummy, although I just kind of threw in what I had around. Yours looks yummy! Thanks for the book recommendation. I had seen the book at the Guernsey library and was immediately interested. My sister and I were peeking ahead. I'm definitely going to get my hands on it and read it.