smoked beer can chicken soup

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the chill in the air; I love the contrast between the bright blue sky and Mother Nature’s muted colors; I even love the cool, earthy and slightly damp way the world smells. Around this time each year I’m typically elbow deep in end of the season garden veggies; namely peppers, tomatoes, onions and eggplant. But not this year. This summers garden was a serious bust. I gave it just as much love as I ever do and the meager amount of veggies it produced was beyond disappointing. Sure my cucumber plants grew so voraciously we were eating cucumber with nearly every meal, but I got exactly two habanero and six bell peppers, the yellow and acorn squash flowered but then nada, the radishes and beets were nothing but greens and the tomato plants grew taller than me but only offered up a few handfuls of fruit. It broke my heart. What did truly flourish and produce in abundance were the tomatillos. The plants were so tall and willowy they resembled trees and each was covered stem to stern in little paper-thin green lanterns that would later be filled with the tomatillo fruit. It was the bountiful harvest I had been longing for. So you may be wondering, what did I do with all those lovely tomatillos? Well… I ate them sliced in salads and as a garnish for tacos. I made an insanely spicy Salsa Verde and I threw a handful in with some heirloom purple tomatoes for a kooky homemade pasta sauce. And I made soup.

Ours is a house of soup eaters, in fact my daughter is so crazy for soup that she’ll frequently request the leftovers for breakfast. No problem… In my mind there’s nothing like a warm comforting bowl of some homemade goodness to make a chilly Fall day (or morning) seem downright toasty. Believe it or not I’ve actually been planning for my first pot of Fall soup for a few months now. I know, seems a little crazy right? But it’s not really. You see my husband really honed his smoked beer can chicken technique this past summer. What started out as a good recipe in June turned into a killer recipe by August. It was so good that beer can chicken was the meal requested by my son’s friend the night he slept over. (And you know when a super picky 10 yr old requests one of your recipes it must be good!) Anyway, to ultimately get to this poultry of perfection recipe he made beer can chicken fairly frequently— sometimes as often as two weekends in a row. Mind you I’m not complaining, just explaining that we had a considerable amount of leftover chicken in the house and one can only eat so many chicken salad sandwiches! So, I decided to quietly squirrel away some of the leftover bits in the freezer in anticipation of that first pot of soup.

Fast forward to a chilly day in September, a day that begged for soup. Into the pot went some onion, a green pepper and a bunch of those lovely tomatillos. Out of the freezer came my carefully rationed chicken and an hour later… into our belly’s went some of the tastiest soup ever to come out of my kitchen.

And yes, my littlest love did in fact have a bowl of it for breakfast the next day.

beer can soup

Smoked Beer Can Chicken Soup
Any sort of leftover chicken will do but the smoked beer can really brings a nice flavor to the party.

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. tomatillos, husked, washed and diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
3 cups frozen corn, defrosted
2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed
8 cups chicken stock
4 cups leftover beer can chicken, cut into bite size pieces
Sliced jalapeño, fresh cilantro, avocado (optional garnish)

  1. In a large stockpot over medium heat warm the oil until it just begins to shimmer. Add the onions and cook until they become transparent. Then add the garlic, tomatillos and peppers. Season with salt and let cook until the tomatillos break down and become soupy.
  2. Add to the pot the spices, corn, black beans, stock and leftover chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and enjoy garnished with sliced jalapeño, fresh cilantro and avocado if you like.

“cuban by association” roasted pork

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It’s the day I usually get to sleep in, it’s a day that’s often commitment free, it’s a day to relax and do what we want at the pace we want to do it. I like to have a proper dinner on Sunday, nothing overly fancy just a little more involved than your ordinary weeknight meal; a little Death Row Chicken, some slow-cooked pulled turkey or as on a recent Sunday a bit of Cuban-Style Roasted Pork. Now before we go any further I feel the need to make a few things clear: I am not Cuban nor am I married to a Cuban (yes I have a girlfriend who is but I’m not sure that counts), I have never been to Cuba and I do not profess to understand all the intricacies of Cuban cuisine. However… I do happen to love this inspired by a million other cuisines style of food (traditional Cuban food takes a page from Spanish, French, African, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese cultures) and have eaten it enough to think that I can come up with my own riff on Cuban Roasted Pork. And so I did.

To begin with I made a “traditional” Cuban mojo; a mixture of oil, garlic, onion, oregano, orange and lime. I let the meat marinate in the mojo overnight and then roasted it in the oven like I would our Christmas Prime Rib (start off at a high temp. to sear the outside then reduce the heat and let it cook for a couple of hours). The results were amazing, seriously delicious. So good in fact that I would almost be willing to serve it to my girlfriends mother-in-law. Almost. But wait, the story doesn’t end there.

On the eve of every weekend I say I’m going plan dinners for the week and shop for everything I need ahead of time, and every weekend I don’t. So invariably the same thing always happens; we’re good to go till Wednesday then kaput… mayonnaise sandwiches. It was one of those nothin in the fridge but condiments and Sunday nights leftovers (which happened to be roasted Cuban pork) that actually inspired the most fantastic leftover dinner to date. I decided to break out the panini press and turn the leftover pork, a little Dijon mustard, Virginia ham, dill pickles and swiss cheese into delicious Cuban Sandwiches. Winner, winner… Cuban pork take two dinner. Delish!

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork
You can cut this recipe in half, but then you don’t have much for leftovers.

2 heads garlic, broken apart and skinned
1 large onion
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 orange
6 lbs. pork loin end roast, trimmed

  1. Place all of the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Allow to process until fairly smooth. Pour the marinade into a large resealable container, add the pork and allow to marinate (turning once or twice) for 12-18 hrs. Remove the meat from the refrigerator an hour before you want to put it in the oven.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the roast from the marinade and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Add a little water to the bottom of the pan and roast for 30 minutes.
  3. Reduce the oven to 350°F and allow to cook until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, about 2 hrs.
  4. Remove the roast from the oven and allow to sit for 20 minutes before carving into thin slices.

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork Panini
This is one of my favorite leftover meals and it’s so simple it really doesn’t even warrant a recipe.

cuban sandwich2

leftover pork loin end roast, sliced thin and warmed
crusty bread (I used a loaf of ciabatta)
Dijon mustard
baby dill pickles, sliced thin
Virginia ham
provolone or swiss cheese

  1. Preheat your panini press. (You can do this in a pan like you would grilled cheese as well, but you’ll need to weigh down the sandwich while it cooks.) Slice the bread into individual portions and then in half.
  2. Coat one half with mustard then start layering: cheese, then a couple of slices of pickle, then a few pork slices, top that with a slice or two of ham and finish up with another slice of cheese. Top with the remaining half of bread, squish in the panini press until the cheese has melted and the crust is warm and crispy. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

salsa! (or was it a waltz?)

When life hands you lemons you make Limoncello (well at least I do). And when life hands you a bounty of tomatoes, hot peppers and onions you make… Salsa!

The calendar may read October but my garden is still churning out a summer’s share of the aforementioned vegetables. I’ve made countless batches of tomato sauce, sliced, diced and sautéed peppers and onions for every dish imaginable and made a super spicy simple salsa (say that three times fast), yet I still have plenty more vegetables left to use.

The traditional raw salsa I made was really fresh and delicious, but I wondered what would happen if I took the same ingredients and roasted them. I often slow roast tomatoes and serve them as appetizers along with herbed olives and cheese and I love how roasting broccoli turns the ordinary into extraordinary, so I was intrigued by the idea of a slow roasted salsa. As expected it was delicious with a depth of flavor the raw ingredients alone could never have achieved, although it struck me as more of a caponata and less like a salsa. Regardless of what you call it, I ended up with way more of this spicy little number than I thought we would eat with chips or enjoy in tacos. So, what did I do… Made soup of course!

We consume gallons of soup in our house. Once the weather cools off I often roast a chicken for dinner on Sundays, which means I always have a bit of leftover bird to do something with during the week. Soup is usually my solution and this spicy chicken and black bean soup was a particularly delicious creation.

It would appear that roasting is the never fail dance in 3/4 time method of cooking!

Spicy Chicken & Black Bean Soup
This soup is the perfect busy weeknight dinner.

spicysoup3

2 cups roasted tomato-chile salsa (see recipe below)
4 cups chicken broth (homemade or store-bought)
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 cups leftover chicken
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 tbsp. lime juice
diced avocado, for garnish
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
tortilla chips, for garnish

  1. In a large stockpot add the salsa, broth and the spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium simmer. Add the beans and let simmer for 15 minutes covered.
  2. Uncover and add the chicken and frozen corn and allow to cook until everything is heated through, about 8-10 min.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice (don’t skip the lime juice, it really adds a wonderful freshness to the soup), adjust the seasonings and serve garnished with avocado, fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar cheese with a few tortilla chips on the side.

Roasted Tomato-Chile Salsa
Roasting the vegetable and adding a little raw onion at the end makes this the perfect salsa.

2 1/2 lbs. Roma tomatoes
1 lg. onion, quartered
1 head of garlic
1/2 lb. fresh Poblano chilies
3 fresh Habanero chilies
2 tbsp. olive oil
a handful of cilantro
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup finely diced onion

  1. Turn the broiler on to high. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and set aside.
  2. Break the head of garlic into cloves (leaving the skins on) and place in a large bowl. Add to the bowl the tomatoes, the quartered onion and chilies and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Toss to cover each vegetable in oil and place in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil until the skins begin to blister and pop (the peppers will be ready before the tomatoes.)
  4. Remove the charred vegetables from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the stems from the Poblano peppers, tear in half and wipe out as many seeds as you can (don’t make yourself crazy trying to get them all.)
  5. Add all the vegetables, fresh cilantro, salt and lime juice to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is chopped but the salsa is still chunky. Stir in the diced onion and allow to chill before serving. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator.

tweaked up chicken-corn chowder

If you’ve ever read this blog before then you know how difficult I find it to follow a recipe exactly as written. Even when I set out to play by the rules, I find myself making a little change here and there. No recipe is safe from my tweaking including as it turns out, one of my own.

Last January I posted a Chicken-Corn Chowder recipe that was crazy delicious, but also a little on the heavy side. I suppose my rational was that when the temps outside are frigidly cold you want a comforting, hearty meal that will not only fill your belly but also make you feel warm and toasty inside. However since it’s Summer (and heavy and toasty is the last way I’m hoping to feel), I happen to have both heavy cream lingering in my fridge from my Julia Child homage and a container of leftover smoked chicken looking for reinvention, I thought I’d revisit this recipe and see if I could tweak it up a bit.

It turns out that by simply swapping a little diary for chicken broth, using canned creamed corn (I know, the blasphemy!) and kicking up the spices a bit I had a tasty and way less filling meal on the table in no time flat. I do so love when things fall into place! The original recipe is still a good one, don’t get me wrong, but this one it’s just a little bit closer to perfect.

Spicy Smoked Chicken-Corn Chowder
I used leftover smoked chicken (we’ve been on a bit of a smoking jag around here) but leftover roasted or store-bought rotisserie would work just as well.

chowder-revisit2

3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/4 cups celery (about 3 stalks), thinly sliced
1 can mild green chilies (or diced jalapeños)
3 cups low-fat milk
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2-1 tsp. chipotle chili pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
3 1/2 cups leftover smoked chicken, shredded
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 15 oz. can small white beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can cream-style corn
shredded sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over a medium flame. Add the garlic, onion, celery and chilies and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until corn and beans are tender and the chicken is heated through, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Ladle into bowls, top with shredded cheddar and serve with a side of cornbread. (I think this chowder is even better after its sat overnight so I usually make it the day before I intend to serve it.)

*adapted from cooking light and kerrygold.com

modernized tetrazzini

Some people love leftovers while others cringe at the very idea. I happen to be a leftover lover. A delicious meal with a fraction of the work, um yes please! In my mind what’s even better than a no hassle dinner of leftovers is turning those leftovers into something entirely new and delicious. Think shepherd’s pie with leftover mashed potatoes (remind me to give you that recipe, it’s one of my families favorites), pea soup with leftover glazed ham or ice cream with leftover egg nog. Yum!

I’ve already told you that one of my all-time favorite meals is roasted chicken, but with warm weather (finally) upon us I’d much rather crank up the grill than the oven. Thankfully my husband received a “beer can chicken” rack last Father’s Day and has recently started putting it to good use. Have you ever cooked chicken this way? It’s ridiculously good and strikingly easy, especially if you have a rack. Anyway back to the leftovers— we made and enjoyed a beer can chicken last Sunday and ended up with a container of leftover meat after dinner. Chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken a la king… nope Chicken Tetrazzini.

Chicken tetrazzini seems to be one of those classic dishes that has gone the way of tuna noodle casserole (complete with crushed potato chips sprinkled on top) and sloppy joe’s. It’s typically made with some diced chicken and mushrooms, tossed with spaghetti, smothered in a heavy butter/cream sauce and baked until the cheese on top is bubbly and toasted. Tasty I’m sure, but not exactly a 2013 idea of nutritious. But if you make a few lower fat substitutions and really punch up the flavor with a bit of onion and spices, hello perfectly acceptable and surprisingly kid-friendly modern day dinner!

Sometimes those oldies really are the goodies. Perhaps next week I’ll try to modernize franks n’ beans…

Welcome to the Future Chicken Tetrazzini
This recipe is great with either leftover chicken or turkey. I typically use fusilli pasta or rotini, but you could also use spaghetti if you prefer.

NEW:tetrazzini2

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
a pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup brandy
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup set aside
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
8 ounces thin pasta (fusilli, spaghetti), broken in thirds
3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced large
plain panko, for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, black pepper, salt, thyme, garlic, cayenne and mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add the brandy and cook 2 more minutes.
  2. Add the broth to the pan and gradually add flour. Use a whisk to incorporate the flour into the liquid and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until cream cheese melts.
  3. Remove from heat and add the pasta and chicken and stir until blended. Grease a medium high-sided ceramic baking dish and pour in the tetrazzini mixture.
  4. In a small bowl mix together the panko crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pasta and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove casserole from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

*adapted from cooking light