Spicy Chicken Soup

I have a confession to make…I don’t like chicken soup. I find it dull and a bit depressing. There, I said it. Sometimes I feel a bit strange admitting I’m not a fan of chicken soup. People look at me strangely, give me that what’s wrong with you? glance. My husband, on the other hand, loves it. Homemade, from a can, in a restaurant, with noodles, with rice — he’ll eat them all. Recently, I decided to challenge myself and try to create a chicken soup we both could enjoy. Not an easy feat, I know. First, I knew that it had to be spicy. John’s family is from Mexico, and he definitely loves heat. I wanted to create layers of bold, rich flavor. Using ancho chiles, onions, fresh corn, tomatoes and shredded chicken thighs, I was able to do just that. One spoonful of this soup and I knew I created a keeper. When John tasted it, he thoroughly agreed. This soup is perfect for chilly days like the ones we have now, when you want to warm your body from the inside out.

Spicy Chicken Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

What You’ll Need:

3 lbs chicken thighs, poached, skin removed and shredded
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed
1 large onion, chopped
1 serrano pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large ancho chiles, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, seeded, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-28 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 handfuls cilantro, roughly chopped
2 limes
avocado, sliced
sour cream, for garnish

In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Saute the corn kernels for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic and serrano pepper. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and smoked paprika. Let saute for an additional 5 minutes.

In a small food processor, puree the ancho chile with some of the chicken stock until smooth. Add the ancho, tomatoes and remainder of the chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 10 minutes, allowing flavors to combine.

Using an immersion blender, puree about half of the soup. The goal is to thicken it just a bit, but still have some pieces of onion, tomato and corn throughout. Add the shredded chicken and let simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the juice of one lime and mix in half of the chopped cilantro. Ladle the soup into bowls. Place a few slices of avocado on top, then add a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with cilantro, then squeeze some fresh lime over everything. Enjoy!

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Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

What a gorgeous day. After a winter of record-breaking snowfall, and a recent torrent of rain, we were finally blessed with a weekend filled with sun and 50 degree weather. The huge block of ice on our back porch thawed to reveal a neglected Kenmore grill. When I realized the propane tank was nearly full, I could almost taste grilled steak in the near future.

I can still remember the first time I ate skirt steak. I was in my mid-teens, and Papi the Butcher had brought home the strange-looking cut of beef for dinner. If you’ve never seen skirt steak before, it’s a long, flat cut of beef. When I asked what it was, he replied, “Skirt steak.” At first, I thought he was joking. I mean, why would someone name a cut of beef after an item of clothing? He explained that skirt steak is the diaphragm muscle of the cow, which is attached to the ribs. It tends to be tough, but is extremely flavorful when cooked properly. Skirt steak is the cut of beef traditionally used for fajitas and is commonly called arrachera or churrasco. Many people commonly confuse skirt steak with flank steak, but they are actually two different cuts.

Years ago, skirt steak was one of the cheaper cuts of beef. Nowadays, it averages about $4 a pound, which is on the pricey side. Many people discovered that despite it’s toughness, when grilled or pan-seared, skirt steak can be tender and delicious. It’s also a great steak to braise or marinade.

For weeks, I’ve been anxious for the opportunity to make my own chimichurri. Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce used as a marinade or condiment for meat. It’s most commonly made with parsley, garlic, oil, and other seasonings. From what I’ve heard, Argentinian’s use chimichurri like Americans use ketchup.

When I heard the weather forecast for a gorgeous weekend ahead, I brought home some skirt steak and went to work on making my sauce. When you make this chimichurri, you’ll want to lick the spoon.

When you buy skirt steak, be sure to have your butcher remove the membrane and trim a good portion of the fat, unless you’re feeling adventurous and want to attempt that at home. Before grilling, I seasoned my skirt steak simply with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. No fancy pants here. The star of the show is the chimichurri.

Chimichurri

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
8 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf

Toss the parsley in a small food processor with the vinegar, water, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil, then give it a whirl. Add the bay leaf, then let the sauce stand, at room temperature, for at least an hour. This will allow the flavors to come together.

If you don’t have a food processor, be sure to finely chop your parsley and garlic by hand. Stir together the vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaf, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until combined, then whisk in the finely chopped parsley. Be sure to discard the bay leaf before serving. Serve this sauce alongside grilled beef, chicken, shrimp, chorizo, or whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!

Game Day Chili

Chili can be a very debatable subject among aficionados. Beef or pork? Beans or bean-less? Green or red? I know several people who claim theirs is the best. I certainly don’t claim to make the best, but I sure do make some darn good chili!

Chili originated in the late 1800’s in San Antonio, Texas. Hispanic women would gather in public places and sell bowls of chili to passersby. Cattle were cheap and plentiful in San Antonio, so chili was often made with beef. As the years went by, chili parlors opened up throughout Texas. Soon, the craze expanded to nearby states. Since beef wasn’t as abundant or inexpensive in other regions of the United States, people started adding beans to their chili, to act as a “filler.” So, as it turns out, the original chili did NOT include beans. Well, I have nothing against beans, so they make an appearance in my chili. More fiber, right?

For this recipe, I use a blend of ground beef and pork. I asked my brother, a butcher, to grind some chuck. I prefer chuck because it has a great balance of meat and fat. Fat is essential for lots of flavor. For ground pork, I use boneless pork loin. The combination of beef and pork, along with some smoky bacon, makes for a hearty, satisfying chili.

Game Day Chili

The Butcher’s Daughter original recipe

 

What You’ll Need:

olive oil
½ pound bacon, diced
1 pound ground pork (recommended: pork loin)
1 pound ground beef (recommended: chuck)
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
¼ cup brewed coffee
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
grated cheddar cheese, for serving

Cook bacon in a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium to high heat, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pot and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pot! This is valuable stuff!

Add the diced onion and green pepper to the pot, using the bacon fat to cook the vegetables until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables and set aside. If the vegetables have absorbed all the bacon fat, add some olive oil to the bottom of the pot. Add the ground pork and beef and sauté until brown. Return the onion and bell pepper to the pot. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. Cook for about a minute. Return the bacon to the pot. Add the tomato paste to the mixture, making sure to blend it well throughout the meat. Add the crushed tomatoes, coffee, and water, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the kidney beans. Cook the chili for about 2 to 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Ladle chili into bowls and top with shredded cheddar cheese before serving. Enjoy!