Monday, October 18, 2004

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I've had this recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup ready to talk about for a couple of months now. I was going to serve it when our priest came over for dinner and then drop the recipe on y'all. However, our poor priest is the only one for our parish of 3,000+ families and is soooooo busy that we've rescheduled twice. Now it looks as if it will be late January before he makes it over.

I'm just not going to make everyone wait that long. This soup is so simple and so delicious you've got to try it. It's perfect for a busy holiday season, at least in Texas. So, without further ado, Chicken Tortilla Soup!

From A timesaver I sometimes use is to substitute 2-3 cups of fresh pico de gallo for the Step 1 ingredients and the tomatoes in step 2. I just saute them all together at the beginning.

Also, cooking the tortillas with the soup makes it very thick. We usually leave the tortillas out and crumble tortilla chips into the bottom of the bowl before ladling in the soup.

Step 1:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 onion, chopped

In a large stock pot, heat oil. Saute garlic, cilantro and onion for 2-3 minutes.

Step 2:
Corn tortilla chips to equal about 8 tortillas
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

Stir in all and bring to a boil.

Step 3:
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups chicken broth

Add all, return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Step 4:
4 boneless chicken breasts, diced (1 lb.)
Lime wedges
Shredded Monterey Jack
Sour Cream

Stir in chicken and continue simmering for 15 more minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve with accompaniments.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Crispy St. Nicholas Cookies

These were the big hit on the cookie platters I served to my CRHP team at our last meeting. Cut in star shapes, thin, crispy and subtly cinnamon, these cookies even beat out the chocolate cookies and that isn't easy. It figures that my friend Susan wanted the recipe. Not only does she love to cook but her oldest son, Nick, would be the perfect person to receive these cookies from a cookbook by Nick Malgieri, named for St. Nicholas. With that sort of connection, how could she not demand the recipe? Here it is for everyone to enjoy.

From Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri. Although this recipe calls for a standing mixer I'm sure this could be done with any regular mixer or even by hand.

Step 1:
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a bowl, combine all; stir well to mix.

Step 2:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together on medium speed the butter and sugar until light and whitened, about 5 minutes.

Step 3:
1 large egg
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Beat in egg and zest and continue beating until smooth and light, another 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater with a large rubber spatula and, on low speed, add the flour mixture. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and complete the mixing with a large rubber spatula. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a square or rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap and chill the dough until it is firm, about an hour or two.

Step 4:
2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil
When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out a third of the dough at a time until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Use a fluted cutter between 2 and 3 inches in diameter, or any kind of decorative cutter you wish. Just be sure to dip it frequently in flour. As they are cut, place the cookies on the prepared pans about an inch apart in all directions. Repeat with remaining dough. Save, press together, chill, and reroll the scraps to make more cookies.

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until they first become dull and dry-looking and feel slightly firm when pressed with a fingertip. If you overbake the cookies, they will be very dry.

Slide the papers from the pans onto racks to cool.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Skillet Cornbread

For a few days last week it was finally more like fall here. Now it's hot again but then we had chilly mornings, driving to work with the windows open, simply beautiful days. This summer was much more bearable than usual but I had given up doing anything that would heat up the kitchen. Fall is when I begin making one of the girls' favorites, Skillet Cornbread. It isn't the sweet, Northern kind I grew up on ... the kind you get when you use Jiffy Mix. This is classic Southern cornbread made with buttermilk and no sugar, in a cast iron skillet.

I know this recipe is one of James Villas' mother but am not sure which cookbook I got it from. I think it was from My Mother's Southern Kitchen. The original also had bacon fat but none of us liked the taste so I use straight shortening.

Step 1:
1-1/2 cups white cornmeal
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 475°. Combine ingredients.

Step 2:
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
Add to dry ingredients, combine well.

Step 3:
2 tablespoons shortening
Melt shortening in a 9-1/2" cast iron skillet. Pour hot fat into batter, stir well and pour batter back in skillet.
Bake for 20 minutes. Turn out onto large plate, cut into wedges and enjoy!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Tuna Risotto

Steve Bogner at Catholicism, holiness and spirituality described a wonderful sounding shrimp risotto which led to me mentioning this recipe for Tuna Risotto that a couple of people were interested in. Just be sure to use good quality canned albacore. Please! I'm beggin' here!

I think I got this from Gourmet magazine but it was a long time ago and I have seen a couple of Italian cookbooks with this sort of recipe. Be sure to use good canned tuna in this. I also could see using chunks of sauteed fresh tuna. My family would like either. However, the canned tuna makes it a midweek meal because I don't have to get fresh fish.

Step 1:
1 onion, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Arborio rice
Sauté onion until softened. Add rice and cook until well coated with oil.

Step 2:
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
Add salt and wine and cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Add stock and cook risotto-style (adding 1/2 cup stock at a time and stirring until absorbed). I tend to add 4 cups of stock, let it get absorbed by simmering, and then add the rest of the stock the "right" way. Its not "proper" but gets the same creamy effect and I can use that initial simmering time to make salad and dressing, etc.

Step 3:
12 ounces canned tuna, drained, broken into large pieces
Stir in during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

Step 4:
1 ounce grated Parmesan
Remove from heat and stir in immediately.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Get Your Freak On

Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

I heard rave reviews about this book but didn't expect to find myself constantly apologizing to Tom for all the giggling while reading it in bed. Steve Almond is not only literally crazy about candy but a hilarious and talented writer. His quest to find his favorite candy of yesteryear takes him around America to the last of the independent candy manufacturers. Even when mentioning his personal political or environmental views, Almond never really dwells on them or seems to take anything too seriously ... except candy, of course. Its a quick read that left me with a desire to look for 5 Star Bars, Peanut Chews, Big Hunks ... all that candy that I never heard of before but now long to experience.