Guys, it’s soup season. Since the New Year, my weekends have been centered around what soup or stew I’ll be whipping up next. A big bowl of hot broth, tenderly cooked meat or legumes, softened crunchy vegetables, and flavor for days is just what winter and it’s friend January should be made of.
Pair with a simple salad of mixed lettuces, a handful or two of a cooked whole grain such as quinoa or farro, maybe even a wedge of fresh bread and it’s a meal!
Dust off your Dutch ovens and slow cookers and get stewing. Below are some of my favorites, some I’ve mentioned before, but they’re so delicious that they deserve a second and probably third mention…
1. The Beekman Boys’ roasted cauliflower with apple and ginger soup. Clean, spicy, simple. Calls for a full purée of the soup, but I would save some cauliflower florets to leave whole and return to the soup post-purée.
2. Molly Wizenberg’s chana masala. Indian food classic, chickpeas, tomato sauce, serve with naan scrubbed with a raw clove of garlic.
3. America’s Test Kitchen red lentil soup with North African spices. If you don’t have an ATK/Cook’s Illustrated membership, I highly suggest you get one, worth every penny, even just to get this recipe.
4. From Adrianna Adarme’s first cookbook, A Year of Cozy, which I happened to pick up for myself during a particularly cold and bland day that called for retail therapy, a vegetarian take on the French classic, cassoulet.
5. Speaking of France, unfortunately we can’t all be Julia Child (weh), but we can all make this ‘simplified’ version of boeuf bourguignon. I plan to break my January alcohol fast with a bowl of this and lots of red wine, although I’m sure my lowered (and lowering) tolerance will only handle two glasses. Guess I’ll just have more stew.
6. For all the Super Bowl parties and to sweep the chili competitions, Ruth Reichl’s chili from her new cookbook, My Kitchen Year. Get ground bison from your local farmer’s market and serve the chili with a hunk of skillet cornbread. THEE BEST chili I’ve ever tasted.
7. Back to an Orangette favorite, winter squash soup with coconut milk and curry powder. Creamy, thick, earnestly sweet and spiced, makes you think you have a winter squash for a heart. I’m not kidding.
This recipe comes to me from a very dear family friend, Nancy. Her and her husband are my parents’ closest friends. I deem them a second set of parents, the kind that are ready to slip you another margarita even if your real mother frowns upon it. Their kids, now all grown-up and with babies of their own, are practically my extended siblings. Nancy has always been a wonderful cook, baker, chef, sharer of recipes, source of food-spiration, what have you. I always look forward to whatever she sends my way. It’s good to have people like that in your life, both for more margaritas and yummy recipes.
Note: The original recipe calls for 3 whole chicken breasts, I’m not crazy about chicken breasts in a slow cooker, they tend to have that ‘I’ve been cooking for 8 hours, I’m giving up now’ taste so I opted for chicken thighs for a better flavor and texture. Didn’t want the hassle of fishing out the bones, so I went boneless. Feel free to play around and use whatever you’d like.
Yields 8-10 servings for very hungry people.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
-5-6 chicken thighs, skinless & boneless
-2 tsp. chili powder
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-Salt & pepper
-1 medium onion, diced
-1 red pepper, seeded & diced
-1 yellow pepper, seeded & diced
-1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes with chiles & their juices
-1/2 C. salsa
-3 C. chicken broth
-4 oz. tomato paste
-1 whole chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce
-1 14 oz. can black beans, rinsed & drained
-1 10oz. box/bag frozen corn
-.5 to 1 oz. dark chocolate, a small square or two, good quality, at least 65% cacao
-1 lime, juiced
-Avocado, cilantro, sour cream, tortilla chips for serving
-Place chicken thighs in slow cooker, sprinkle with chili powder and cumin, salt and pepper to taste.
-Add diced onion, red pepper, yellow pepper, diced tomatoes, salsa, chicken broth, tomato paste, chipotle pepper, and black beans. Stir to combine.
-Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours.
-When ready to serve, remove lid and add frozen corn to slow cooker, cover and let cook through, 4-5 minutes.
-Once corn is heated through, fish out the whole chicken thighs, shred or chop them and return to the pot. Also fish out the chipotle pepper, chop and return to pot.
-Stir in juice of one lime, along with a square or two of dark chocolate, sounds somewhat crazy but really enhances the chipotle pepper. At this point you can play around with flavor. If it needs a bit more smoke perhaps add more chili powder. Perhaps it needs a bit more salt, a bit more lime, dark chocolate, kick, etc. Doctor it as you wish.
-Ladle into bowls and top with avocado slices, fresh cilantro, a wedge of lime. If you’re feeling daring perhaps some sour cream, and most definitely some crunchy tortilla chips for dipping. Enjoy!
This bowl was graciously gifted to me from my friend Jessica, who now lives in Houston and I miss lots. It traveled all the way from South Africa and was crafted from the talented Gemma Orkin. It’s perfect for a hearty serving of soup with plenty of room to work with.