Thursday, January 14, 2010

Freezing It -- Two Soup Recipes

I'm not sure if it's the cold weather, or needing to restock the freezer since the move or if it's an early nesting instinct, but all week I've been cooking my favorite freezable dinners. I love having lots of casseroles and soups in the freezer, just waiting to be pulled out for culinary emergencies -- a last-minute potluck, spontaneous dinner party, dinner for a sick friend or new parents. We depleted our stock in December before we moved, and it was wonderful to not have to worry much about cooking during those hectic weeks (as well as a relief not to worry about wasting all those great dinners we couldn't take with us!).

Last night's dinner is one of our staples, but I'll warn you now if you have a cherished family recipe for chicken and dumplings, or if it's just one of your cultural points of pride, you might want to just pretend this dish is called Chicken Enchilada Soup or something else. I am not fond of traditional chicken and dumplings (although my friend M.E.'s chicken pie is the stuff of legends, and is like a pan of chicken and dumplings with a dumpling crust), so this spiced-up version fits my Texan palate much better. It's so easy to double (or triple) this recipe and plop half in the freezer after dinner. Sorry for the terrible photo, but my camera battery charger is temporarily MIA, so I had to make do with my phone.

Other great freezer dinners this week included
Okay, enough chatter -- here're the recipes!

Tex-Mex Chicken and Dumplings (or Chicken Enchilada Soup)
adapted from a recipe my grandmother found in a newspaper years ago
Serves 2 with leftovers

1-2 chicken breasts (depending on how much chicken you want in the soup)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 can evaporated skim milk
1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles
4 flour tortillas

Season the chicken breast with cumin, salt and pepper and cook it in a skillet. When it's cooked, dice or shred. Set aside.
While the chicken is cooking, heat olive oil in a pot. Add the onion, garlic and cumin and cook until the onions are browned and almost caramelized.
Add the flour. Stir, and cook about a minute or so to brown the flour a bit.
Stir in the chicken broth. Simmer, stirring until thickened and smooth. The soup will continue to thicken as it cooks, so don't get it quite as thick as you want yet.
Stir in the evaporated milk (or 1.5 cups of cream, if you prefer). Add the green chiles, salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken.
Pour a tiny bit of water into the bottom of the skillet you used to cook the chicken, heat the skillet and scrape all the browned chicken bits off the skillet. Add this dark liquid to your soup.
Bring the soup to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cut the tortillas into dumpling-sized squares and add to the soup.
Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
Serve with sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, Tabasco sauce, jalapenos, cilantro or anything you can dream up -- or just plain.

Green chile soup

2  tablespoons butter or margarine
2  tablespoons olive oil
1  medium yellow onion, diced
5  ribs celery, diced
5  cups chicken stock
1  7-ounce can green chiles
1  teaspoon dry thyme
3  bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2  dashes white pepper
2  tablespoons white pepper
2  tablespoons chopped parsley
1 to 1 1/2 cups instant mashed potato flakes*
1  cup half and half (or my favorite, evap. skim milk)

1  cup sour cream
Additional sour cream for garnish, if desired. 

Heat butter and oil together in large stockpot over low heat.  Add onion and celery and saute until onion is caramelized and celery is tender.  Add half the chicken stock.  Add green chiles, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and parsley and cook until vegetables are very tender, adding a little stock as needed to keep moist, but not too soupy yet.  The mixture can be cooled a bit now. 

Remove bay leaves and puree soup in blender until smooth.  Return to pot and add instant mashed potato flakes to reach desired thickness.  (Wait 5 minutes after adding flakes for soup to thicken before you decide to add more.)  Add more chicken stock if necessary, then add half and half and sour cream.  Heat but do not boil.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

*the only mod I'd make to this soup is to experiment with flour as a thickener instead of potato flakes. It's just a taste preference.

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