Every January, we press the "reset" button, looking for healthy fresh starts and getting organized. Such was the case this week as I was searching for inspiration to write a recipe, so I figured I'd clean out my fridge, freezer and pantry, and play my own at-home game of "Chopped."
My previous real-life experiences on Food Network's "Cutthroat Kitchen" helped prepare me for the challenge (insert Rocky theme here for background ambiance) as I set a timer to really get things going.
With 30 minutes on the clock (the timer was to assess the situation, prep ingredients and get the whole thing going -- the recipe takes a little longer), I took stock of potential ingredients and saw that I had in the fridge the following: a green bell pepper, portobello mushroom caps, a jar of pickled jalapeños, some brown bananas, eggs and a few leftover limes.
From the freezer came chicken breasts, chicken stock and a bag of diced onions that I usually keep on hand for when I'm feeling a little lazy. (Tip: When you're chopping one onion, you might as well just chop three and freeze the extra for later days.)
Looking to the pantry, I found garlic and some aging tortillas. The wheels turned, and immediately I said no to the banana and eggs for this recipe, and made a mental note to make banana bread later. The rest would be turned into Chicken Fajita Soup.
To get the big-time flavor of a skillet of sizzling fajita accoutrements, the first step to this soup is to sauté and season each of the base ingredients, providing bold flavor for a rich result in each and every spoonful. Since you can't really have fajitas without tortillas, I decided to turn these into seasoned baked chips or strips to top the soup. Finishing each dish with a sprinkling of pickled jalapeños sealed the deal, though I really wished I'd had some sour cream and scallions on hand to top it off for a refreshing kick. I'll leave that choice up to you -- black beans and shredded cheese also make for great additions to this soup.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer, chef instructor and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.
Chicken Fajita Soup with Baked Tortilla Crisps
Ingredients for soup
4 c. chicken stock
1.5-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced to 1/2 inch cubes
2 large portobello mushroom caps, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
Vegetable or canola oil, as needed
3 limes, for juice & garnish
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
Smoked paprika, as needed
Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper as needed
Jarred sliced pickled jalapeños, for garnish
Baked tortilla crisps (recipe below), for garnish
Directions for soup
1. Place the diced chicken pieces into a zip-top bag and add juice of 1 lime, 2 tbsp. oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Press out the air, and seal the bag shut. Gently squeeze the bag, working the ingredients around until combined. Allow to rest and marinate for 20 minutes.
2. In a large Dutch oven, or heavy bottomed soup pot, heat 2 tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms to the pot and give a good stir to coat, then spread in an even layer across the bottom of the pot. Leave the mushrooms alone and allow them to cook for 5 minutes. Give a good stir again, add 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until mushrooms are browned.
3. To the browned mushrooms, add the diced onion, garlic, bell pepper, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Give a good stir to incorporate all ingredients, and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat until fragrant, and the edges of onion and pepper are lightly browned.
4. Add the marinated diced chicken to the pot, and stir to coat in the mushrooms, peppers and onions. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken has just started to turn white on the outside. Season with additional pinch of salt and pepper.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add the chicken stock to the pot, covering all ingredients. Add the juice from 1 lime, and stir to ensure that all ingredients are mixed and that nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan. If stock does not cover all of the ingredients, add 1 cup of water to cover along with a pinch of salt to season. Simmer the soup over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.
6. Serve a generous portion of soup along with a heaping pile of baked tortilla crisps, sprinkling of sliced pickled jalapeños and wedge of lime.
Ingredients for tortilla crisps
4 8-inch flour tortillas
2 tbsp. veggie or canola oil
1/4 tsp. chili powder
Pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper
Wedge of lime
Directions for tortilla crisps
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tortillas into strips about 1/4 inch wide by 2 inches long.
2. In a mixing bowl, toss the tortilla strips along with oil, chili powder, salt and pepper until all the strips are coated. Transfer the seasoned strips to a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until browned and crisp. Squeeze a wedge of lime juice over top of the crisps before serving.