Tortilla soup numero dos

2 Tbsp. olive oil

8 oz. chicken breast meat, in 1/2″ pieces

1/4 c. onion, fine dice

2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. chile powder

1/8 tsp. cayenne

1 x 14 1/2 oz. can chicken stock

1 x 15 1/4 oz. can corn (don’t drain it)

1 x 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 x 14 1/2 oz. can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes

2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped

sour cream

corn tortilla chips, broken

A few preliminary notes:  I don’t have any idea why all these different can sizes aren’t standardized.  Who decided that 15 1/4 oz. is the perfect size for a can of beans?  Yeesh.  Point being, this recipe, like a lot of soup recipes, is very forgiving.  If you can only find 13 oz. cans of beans, that’s fine; be not afraid.  And if you want to use more chile powder and less salt (or whatever) than this recipe calls for, go right ahead.  Don’t be put off by cilantro stems–unlike Italian parsley stems, they’re tender and pleasant.

Get the oil hot in a Dutch oven.  Add the chicken and cook it for four or five minutes–it should be almost, but not quite, thoroughly done (what we call “par-cooked”).  Stir it around while it’s cooking.  Add the onion, garlic, cumin, salt, chile powder, and cayenne.  “Cook to fragrance,” as they say–after a minute or two, your kitchen should smell like Texas heaven.  Stir in the stock, corn, beans, and tomatoes.  Let it all simmer for about fifteen minutes and then stir in the cilantro.  The sour cream and the corn tortillas chips are for garnish.






German potato soup

Whenever I hear “German” and “potato” in the same phrase, I think of bacon and vinegar, like German potato salad, which I love.  This soup, though, is rich, almost custardy, and free of vinegar.  It’s very good.

4 big potatoes, peeled and diced (I like Yukon gold for all-purpose spuds)

1 qt. water

1/2 lb. bacon, diced (dicing bacon is a pain in the arse, so don’t go getting all OCD with it.  If you want to cut it into little strips–what the French call lardons–that’s perfectly fine.  It’s a rustic soup, which means that you can practically get away with sloppiness and murder)

2 onions, small dice (again, you don’t have to be too persnickety)

salt & white pepper (to me, black pepper doesn’t look right in this soup.  White pepper is sharper, more pungent, and just right.  You can use black pepper if you want to–I just think it would look funky and wrong)

1 c. sour cream

1 egg, beaten

Boil yer spuds in the water ’til they’re tender.  While you’re waiting for that to happen, cook your bacon, and then drain off as much rendered bacon fat as possible.  Add the onions to the bacon pan, and let them cook until they get very soft and are just starting to turn brown.  Put the bacon and onions in with the potatoes and let them get to know each other for about five minutes.  Add as much salt and pepper as you like, and then stir the sour cream and egg together in a separate bowl.  Add a few ounces of the potato water to the sour cream-egg mix, give it a good whisk, and then stir the potato water-sour cream-egg mix back into the potato pot (that there is called “tempering”).  Stir the potato pot well, bring it just up to a boil, and take it right off the heat.  Bits of snipped chive make a nice garnish.

Q & D corn chowder

“Q & D,” to me, is short for “quick and dirty.”  This soup is super-fast and easy.

1 x 10 oz. bag frozen creamed corn

3 slices bacon

1/4 c. onion, diced

1/4 c. green chile, chopped

3 Tbsp. flour

salt and pepper

2 c. milk

Leave the corn out to thaw.  You can speed up the process by putting the corn (still in the bag) in your sink and letting water run over it.  While you’re waiting for that to happen, cook the bacon.  When it’s done, remove the bacon from the pan, but leave the rendered fat in the pan.  Sauté the onion and green chile in the bacon drippings until the onions are nice and tender.  Stir in the flour and hit it with some s & p.  Stir the milk in pretty slowly, and let the mix come to a boil and thicken–stir it all the while, lest it scorch.  Add the corn, and let it get hot all the way through–five minutes or so.  Garnish it with the crumbled-up bacon from before.

Cold cucumber and spinach soup

I know, it’s not really the right time of year to be talking about cold soup.  But if I don’t tell you now, I might forget, and we don’t want that.  Actually, come to think of it, I wouldn’t really mind having a bowl of this soup right now.  Cucumber and spinach?  Mmm.

1 bunch scallions (or green onions or whatever you want to call them)

2 Tbsp. butter

1 qt. cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced

s & p and lemon juice to taste

3 c. chicken stock

1 c. spinach, chopped

1/2 c. potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

1 c. cream

thin slices of cucumber, radishes, and/or scallions for garnish

Combine everything but the cream and the garnishes in a big pot and let it all cook until the potatoes are done.  Purée it, one way or another–you can use an immersion blender, a counter-top blender, a food processor, a food mill, or brute force.  Stir in the cream and refrigerate it for at least a few hours.  Serve it up with the above-mentioned garnishes.

That’s all for now.  We might move on to trickier, more “classic” soups next time.