Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'm posting this recipe more for selfish reasons. I was trying to find this recipe on the food network's website, and I was upset to learn that they had taken it down. Fortunately, I still have a printed copy, however, it's on its last leg. Also, I've been saving this recipe to use in an iron chef. But, I like it sooo much that I think if I didn't win I would be really devastated. Okay, that's a bit dramatic. But, I would be disappointed. My verison of this recipe is much different than the one food network had posted. Well, the base of the recipe is the same, but I've tweaked it. So, I'm going to post how I do this recipe. If I ever come across the basic recipe I will be sure to include it in this post. I hope you like it. To me it's the best chicken tortilla soup I've ever had. Enjoy.

1 Spanish Onion (Or red onion) cut in wedges
7 cloves of garlic, mashed
1-2 jalapeno peppers (seeded and deveined)
1 serrano pepper (seeded and deveined); optional
I also used 5 red chili peppers from my garden (seeded and deveined); optional
1/2 can chili peppers in adobo sauce (seeded)
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
5 cups chicken broth
1 small bag corn
cilantro (I used about a handful)
6 tbsp lime juice
Shredded chicken
2 tsp kosher salt
1 bag of shredded cheddar (or mexican) cheese
tortilla chips

If you need to; boil about 4 chicken breasts so their cooked thoroughly. Remove from pot and when cool enough to handle; shred chicken, place in a bowl, and set aside. Next, place the cut onion, mashed garlic, and peppers on a skillet turned to medium heat. Char both sides for a total of 5 to 10 minutes. Take the can of tomatoes and pour into a blender (include the juice). Remove the onions, garlic, and peppers and place into the blender. Don't forget to add the chili peppers in adobo to the blender as well. Blend ingredients. Pour the puree into a pot. Bring to a boil. Let thicken for about 4 minutes. Pour in the 5 cups of chicken broth. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Feel free to put in the chicken and corn while the soup simmers. Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. You may need more depending on your palette. Add in the lime juice. I just used the juice of 2 limes. Add in the chopped cilantro. Also, I added a couple dashes of cayenne, pepper, and cumin to the soup. Pour soup into bowls and add shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips. These ingredients aren't necessary, but they really make the soup. Enjoy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baked Chicken Taquitos

I heard a joke once that all Mexican food is essentially the same ingredients just combined in different ways. And it’s true if you think about it. Nachos: tortilla chips covered with beans, meat and cheese. Burritos: tortillas filled with beans, meat and cheese. Tacos… well, you get the idea. It’s essentially meat, cheese and tortilla, sometimes beans (unless you’re me). Salsa is always in the mix, too. And I’m here to say—that’s A-ok with me. Cause I like meat. And cheese. And tortillas. Beans and I don’t get along, but that’s alright. And if this recipe for taquitos is just another combination of stuff I like? Hey, there ain’t a thing wrong with that.

I based this recipe on one I found here, but modified it slightly to fit my own tastes. It definitely turned out really good and will be making many more appearances in the dinner line up. It was crunchy, creamy and (when made with pickled jalapenos) nice and spicy. Everything Mexican food should be.

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
¼ cup salsa
1 Tbsp lime juice (half a lime)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 small can pickled jalapenos (less to taste)
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 cup shredded Mexican mixed cheese
Small flour or corn tortillas
Cooking spray

Start by boiling your chicken. Everyone has their own way of doing this, but here’s my method. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut your chicken breasts into thirds for faster, more thorough cooking, and add them to the boiling water. Boil for about 10-14 minutes, checking your thickest piece to see if it’s cooked through. When it is, use two forks to shred the chicken, put it in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare a baking sheet either with parchment paper, or spray it lightly with cooking spray. Mix the cream cheese, salsa and lime juice first. I recommend breaking out your mixer, even though it’s a hassle. Trust me, it's worth it. I tried mixing with a fork, and then a spoon, and there is just no way to get all the cream cheese lumps out without using a mixer. Once it’s mixed add in all the spices, plus the garlic and cilantro and combine. Finally mix in the chicken, jalapenos and cheese. I unfortunately didn’t have pickled jalapenos and used green chiles instead, but they imparted no heat whatsoever. That was my only regret with this recipe. 

To build your taquitos, spoon on your desired amount of chicken mixture in a line on the tortilla. I made mine pretty thick. Maybe that means it wasn’t technically a taquito, but I just didn’t want a mouthful of tortilla. Roll it as tightly as you can and then put it on the baking sheet with the rolled side down. If you put it the wrong way you’ll know because it’ll start to unroll. Once you have all your taquitos rolled (I had 8, which was perfect for my baking sheet, but if you put in less filling you’ll have more taquitos), spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and then cook for about 10-15 minutes. Mine went for 13 and that was perfect. They should be a light golden brown and crunchy. Watch that the tips of the tortilla don’t burn.

Serve with salsa, sour cream or whatever Mexican topping you love. My husband put Tabasco sauce on his and really enjoyed it. I hope you will too! 

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mojo Chicken Empanadas

I love snacky foods. Can I hold it in my hand? Can I dip it in something? Then I'm probably a fan.

So when I saw a recipe for baked empanadas a while back, I was intrigued. Empanadas, in case you don't know, are like little savory pastries, like apple turnovers with meat. And while I'm a southerner who'd eat just about anything fried, frying is a pain in the butt. And also an expansion of the butt. So I perked up at a baked version.

These were the baked empanadas I first spotted on the Internet: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/01/baked-empanadas-3-pts.html I made picadillo from that site (and fell in love with capers), stuffed the shells and knew I'd found a food that felt like a snack and filled like a grown-up meal. So naturally I thought, what else can I put in an empanada shell? I think the answer is probably "anything." But Jon and I decided to try a chicken filling. I envisioned something like a chicken fajita, chopped up and in a pastry.

I had to go to a local Latin market to find the shells, which are in the freezer area. (Sure, you can make your own, but I'm lazy, and the store-bought shells are delicious, and only cost a couple of bucks for about a dozen). We chose a Goya brand of empanada shells, with a red and blue package that said "tapas para empanadas." They also said "para horno," which I believe means "for baking." There are different types for baking or frying, so do make sure you get a baking shell.

We also got a big bottle of Goya mojo sauce. Several years ago we visited Miami, briefly, and ate some sort of local fast-food that involved shrimp with a mojo sauce for dipping. Thereafter we tried to recreate the mojo sauce (with not much luck) but decided to try out the Goya mojo as a marinade.


1 package chicken (we used chicken tenderloins, it was a bit over a pound)
1 onion
1 bell pepper (we used green)
Most of a big bottle of Goya mojo sauce
Two packages of Goya brand frozen empanada discs
Some cilantro and green onion, to taste
A few dashes of hot sauce, a few sprinkles of cumin
Some cheese, like monterey jack or queso blanco or cheddar
Spray oil

Directions: Remove the empanada discs from the freezer and let thaw for about an hour. Trim and marinate the chicken in the mojo sauce, using as much as seems necessary to coat the chicken. We let it sit for a couple of hours, stirring the chicken around now and then although I think thirty minutes is probably a minimum. Cook the chicken in the marinade and then shred with a fork. Dice the onion and green pepper. Return the chicken to a skillet and add the onion and green pepper, sauteeing until the vegetables are softened. Taste your chicken -- while the mojo was strongly-flavored in the bottle, the chicken was actually was pretty mild (still flavorful) once it was cooked.We wanted a slightly stronger flavor so we added a tablespoon or two more mojo sauce (you want it flavorful but you're not looking for a wet, liquid result here) and a dash or two of hot sauce and a sprinkle of cumin). Remove from heat and mix in the cilantro and green onion (and you can leave these out if you're not someone who likes cilantro. We had them on hand). Let cool.

I didn't take a picture of the chicken mixture after we cooked the empanadas, so here's a picture of the filling:

Heat the oven to 350 to 400, depending on your oven. Open the package of empanada shells, take one out, and lay it on a flat surface. Use a rolling pin (or, if you're like me, a large canned-food item, with saran wrap protecting the shell) to roll it out slightly larger. Spoon a tablespoon or two of filling into one side of the shell, leaving a half-inch or so of free shell around the edge, and sprinkle some cheese on top of the filling. Dip your finger in a bowl of water and run it around the edge of the shell, which will make it stick together. Fold the other side of the shell over the filling, lining up the two edges (it should look like a half-moon now) and then folding the edges over to seal. You could probably fork it. Whatever, just make it seal. Spray a baking pan with oil and lay the empanadas on it, then spray them again with oil. (You can also whisk an egg and brush it over the tops, which I did the first time I made empanadas, but then I decided it wasn't necessary.)

Here's what they look like before they're cooked:

Bake about 15 minutes and check them; Jon decided to flip these and bake a few more minutes, which worked with these Goya shells, although I haven't done the flip with past shells. If they've browned, they're done. We dipped them in green salsa and corn salsa.

*A note on shells: different brands seem to provide quite different consistencies. The brands I'd tried in the past created hard shells, but this one had a delicious buttery, flaky crust, like a pastry. Jon ate his with a fork. It depends on your preference, but just make sure you're getting a type meant for baking. Also, when filling them, be careful because the dough can rip. But it's also possible to sort of push the filling around once you've folded the shell over, to help lessen the chance that it'll puff up and half your empanada will be air.

(click here for the printable recipe)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coconut-Lime Peanut Chicken

You might have noticed that one of our home cook contributors, Emily, has an affinity for coconut. No wait, affinity isn’t strong enough. Attraction? Obsession, maybe? Let’s just say, there’s some Single White Female style love going on there. She’s been espousing the virtues of coconut milk to me for a long time and I never listened. But when I found this recipe, I decided to give it a shot finally. And I’m glad I did. It was slightly spicy (I’d add more spice next time) and slightly peanutty. I do think that the name of this meal is a misnomer, because I didn’t taste coconut or lime. But the peanut part was excellent, and even my peanut butter hating husband enjoyed it. I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen

½ cups peanut butter
½ cups light coconut milk
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsps toasted sesame oil
½ tsp honey
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch cinnamon

For the Chicken:
1 teaspoon coconut oil (or oil of your choice)
½ cups onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 pounds chicken breast

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Taste a little and decide if you want more spice or more peanutty flavor and adjust it to fit your tastes. Set it aside and start on the chicken. Heat your oil over medium high heat. I didn’t use coconut oil, since I didn’t have it and didn’t want to get a whole thing of it just for this. I used olive oil and it worked just fine. Add your onion to the pan and cook just until soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add in your garlic and make sure it doesn’t burn. Just cook about 30 seconds or so and then add the chicken and cook for about ten more minutes until it browns and is cooked through. Then you just pour the sauce over the whole shebang and let it simmer, partially covered, for about 5 minutes.

The original recipe called for asparagus, but it didn’t seem to work for me so I left it out (although I love asparagus!). Broccoli might work better, or definitely some traditional Chinese additions like water chestnuts or bamboo shoots. Add those at the same time as the sauce. I also thought it would be good with some actual peanuts, kind of like Kung Pao chicken. Serve over rice and garnish with sliced green onion. It may not appease the coconut-obsessed but it made me consider that coconut milk might not be all that bad. Enjoy!

(click here for printable recipe)