May 22, 2007

Easy does it

Recently, I received a request to showcase easy (for the average person) recipes, which was seconded by several friends. This also happened to coincide with Heidi's posting of an Englishman's request for "easy-to-prepare fresh food." I find that my definition of "easy-to-prepare" differs drastically from that of most of my friends, so it is with them in mind that I set out some ground rules (to which I will attempt to adhere) for this recurring feature.

  1. I will list all ingredients, including salt and pepper, and attempt to provide easy to use, concise measurements for them all.
  2. Each recipe will use no more than 10 total ingredients, and I will provide brand suggestions for unique ingredients (and maybe some suggestions for making homemade versions of store bought ingredients).
  3. I will try to present the recipe in a scalable form, i.e. the recipe is 2 servings as written, but can be doubled, tripled, etc. as necessary.
  4. I will only use ingredients that I can pick up in one grocery store visit.
  5. There should be minimum amount of active time and effort involved in getting from the start to the finish.
The homemade variations will be for people like me that cannot help, but attempt to make nearly everything from scratch (even if it is just once). I think the culinary adventure that cemented my (according to my friends) crazy dedication to cooking was when I produced lard at home (something I plan to continue doing by the way).

For the first installment of this feature I made a verde tortilla soup. Just to ensure that everyone gets off to a good start, there are a few points I want to make. First, verde means "green" in Spanish, and instead of a tomato-based salsa, salsa verde is (usually) based on tomatillos. There are many salsa options available in grocery stores that are not tomatillo-based. If you can't find the brand I suggested or would like to try other brands, check the ingredient list for tomatillos, or "green tomatoes" as they are sometimes called. They should be one of the first ingredients.

That said, try this recipe with your favorite salsa no matter what color, or main ingredient it is based on. One of my friends made it with red, tomato-based salsa with great success.

Chicken Verde Soup
Serves 4-6
Cooking time: Less than one hour

I find that I don't add salt as I cook with this recipe because the ingredients themselves are often heavy on sodium since you are using commercial products, but you may want to add salt and/or pepper at the table.

32 ounces Chicken Broth (I like Swanson Certified Organic)
1 cup frozen corn kernels (lately I've really enjoyed the Bird's Eye Baby Gold and White - it comes in a 1 lb. bag)
1 16-ounce jar salsa verde (I used La Victoria Salsa Verde Medium)
1 15-ounce can black beans (I used Bush's)
1 cup fresh salsa (from a 16 ounce container from the produce section - I'd suggest using mild)
1 rotisserie chicken (don't go for something strongly flavored, like bbq or lemon pepper, instead buy something like "savory') or left over chicken or turkey from another dinner - think Thanksgiving leftovers or leftover grilled chicken, just shred or slice (you'll want about 1 lb of meat).

Toppings (optional, but I would recommend using at least a few of these)
1 Avocado, sliced
Tortilla Chips, crumbled or tortilla strips (see instructions below)
More fresh salsa (using leftovers from above)
Sour Cream (add it by the spoonful on top of the soup)
Mozzarella, or Queso Blanco, or Feta (or your favorite white cheese), shredded or chopped into small cubes


1. Pour the chicken broth into a large pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn on to medium. You want the broth to come to a simmer (just a few large bubbles coming consistently to the surface and breaking - not a cascade of tiny bubbles frothing at the top of the liquid, if that happens turn the heat down to low). Add the corn, beans, salsa verde, and 1-cup of fresh salsa.

2. Pull the skin off of the chicken and throw away. Pull the meat from the bones and place in a bowl (you will have a lot of meat). If you just brought the chicken home it may be a little warm still so be careful.

3. When all the meat is removed and the skin and bones have been discarded pull out your serving bowls. Place about 1/3 cup of meat in each bowl.

4. To serve ladle some of the broth and vegetables over the chicken until the bowl is almost full.

5. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy! (Do try the corn strips - they thicken the soup and give it some real body and texture - I like an equal amount of corn strips and chicken).

Corn Strips

Buy a package or soft corn tortillas (usually near the dairy section). Count on 1-2 tortillas per person.
You can use either lard, shortening, or vegetable oil.

Take about 1 teaspoon of one of the above fats and rub over each side of each tortilla. Then stack all the tortillas and slice with a sharp knife into strips (about 1/4 inch thick). Spread the strips out on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated (400 F) oven for 5-10 minutes, until just beginning to brown and crisp.

If you add them to the hot soup right as they come out of the oven you will hear them sizzle.

If you have a deep fat fryer you could also just cut the tortillas into strips and fry in batches until crispy - I don't have a deep fat fryer and find the oven method the easiest to handle.


Liz said...

I heart you Roasting Rambler..finally my kind of recipes. :) I'll let you know when I try this one.

Manda said...

The pork burger sounds amazing! Anything that requires minimum time and effort gets an A+ from me:)