Mother Nature has certainly let us know that it is winter in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Every morning since the new year began, it has been in the single digits when I go to make breakfast for our guests. All I can think about is how to stay warm. I thought that making some hearty comfort soups for us to enjoy in front of the fireplace each night would bring a warm feeling back to my body. Here are a couple that I know you'll enjoy.
Mexican Chicken Soup
A favorite from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa
4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.
Barley and Beef Soup
Make this soup the night before to allow time for its flavors to develop.A Cooking Light delight.
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
1 pound chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled carrot (about 4)
1 cup chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
5 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup no-salt-added tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chopped onion and beef to pan; cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender and beef is browned, stirring occasionally. Add chopped carrot and chopped celery to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in barley and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until the barley is done and vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaves.
Let me know how you like them. You can freeze them for up to 2 months.
Rachel Reid, Very Happy Innkeeper at Andon-Reid Inn our Bed and Breakfast in Waynesville, North Carolina