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10 September 2012
My favorite foods have always been real foods. So much of my issue with gluten-free eating is how much fake food there is: fake "bread," fake cookies that are supposed to be like Oreos but are a far cry, fake everything you can imagine. There is nothing comforting or healthy about fake. It's the worst of both worlds.
So I find myself drawn to foods that are naturally gluten free, and which don't require any weird substitutions (xanthan gum, anyone?). That makes a lot of Mexican food, already one of my favorite cuisines, pretty much ideal. Anything with a flour tortilla is out of the question, of course, so I'm not chowing down to my heart's content on burritos (sniff, sniff). But most anything built around corn tortillas, provided they are gluten-free, is a-okay.
Good thing, because I was recently craving tortilla soup in a b-a-d way recently. I'd never made it before, but decided to try my hand, and it turned out amazingly well. As in best-I've-ever-had well. Lucky me. And now lucky you, since my recipe is right here. Disclosure: This isn't a super quick meal to prepare, but you could easily break it into stages (broth one night, soup the next) so that it would still be suitable to a weekday dinner. If you're tempted to make it from storebought broth, I won't try to stop you, but it won't be as good. You'll also need to add a little garlic to the soup since it probably won't be noticeable in the broth (maybe a little onion, too).
Chicken tortilla soup (naturally gluten-free)
12 cups water
4 large chicken drumsticks or 2 large breasts on the bone
1 white or red onion, halved (skin on is okay)
1 celery stalk
2 carrots, cut into 3-4 segments each
2 garlic cloves (unpeeled is fine)
1 T. salt
2 cartons (or cans) diced tomatoes with Mexican seasoning
1 can of corn, or kernels from two ears of corn
2-3 cups masa or finely ground corn meal
1-2 t. cumin powder
Cilantro, chopped (optional), for garnish
Avocado, sliced (optional), for garnish
Sour cream (optional), for garnish
Thin tortilla strips, deep fried (optional), for garnish
Extra salt as needed
1. Cook the chicken and make the broth.
In a large stockpot, combine the water, chicken, onion, celery, carrots, garlic cloves and 1 T. salt, and bring to a bare simmer (barely bubbling). Continue simmering uncovered for approximately one hour to 90 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and water has turned the color and flavor of the broth. Skim off foam that accumulates along the way. Once cooked, remove the chicken, and then strain all of the other ingredients out of the broth. Salt the broth enough for it to taste yummy, and not like dishwater (salt makes all the difference!), and return to the burner on medium heat. Remove any skin and bones from the chicken, and roughly chop it into soup-sized pieces. Add to the broth.
Note: If you wish to make the broth a day ahead, strain and salt the broth, and then put it into the fridge. Keep the chicken pieces whole to prevent them from drying out until right before you make the finished soup.
2. Make the soup.
In the large stockpot containing the broth and chicken, add the cartons or cans of tomatoes and the corn. Heat the soup to a simmer. Slowly and carefully whisk in the masa, starting with 1-1.5 cups and gradually adding more only if the soup is still very thin. Whisk in the cumin, again starting with very little, and tasting along the way. Bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes to combine the flavors. Before serving, add salt salt to taste.
3. Serve and enjoy.
Serve the tortilla soup, garnishing it as you wish.
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