Kicked-up Southwest Chicken and Noodle Soup
While chicken and noodle soup is one of the most popular soups in America, it doesn’t grab my attention in the least. As one who has grown up in the Arizona southwest desert, spicy pepper-laden dishes are pretty much the norm. The good news is that those hot peppers containing capsaicin not only help clear my sinuses of the pollen and dust-filled Phoenix air, but also provide many other health benefits, including increased production of endorphins which fortify your immune system. The bad news – bland soups, such as a typical chicken and noodle soup, cause me to experience an ocular- induced coma, resulting in me falling face-forward into chicken noodle soup from culinary boredom. If or when this happens when dining out, my wife stealthy disappears from the table before the restaurant staff summons paramedics with a 911 call. Later comes the embarrassment of explaining to the ER doctor why I am wearing soup, not to mention an elegant dinner just turned into an expensive circuitous hospital detour on my way home in a costly cab driven by an odiferous driver. It is simply best for me to avoid bland soups.
Therefore, crushed red peppers come to the rescue, better yet, specifically Chili Tepin to the rescue. Tepin are tiny dried chilies measuring only about ¼” in diameter. If you are using the ubiquitous crushed red pepper that came with your spice rack 10 years ago, use a couple tablespoons. If however, you decided to venture out and try using Chili Tepins, start with only six or eight of these little dynamos. They are tiny, but HOT. What Tepins lack in size they make up in piquant (that wonderful fiery sensation on your tongue.) Do not attempt to crush these babies using your thumb and palm. If you do, you will enjoy the experience for hours. No kidding. You are warned.
This soup is a chicken and noodle recipe with a hot red sauce added as well as some red and green bell peppers added for crunch, taste and color, garnished with green onions and cilantro. It is simple but delicious.
We use brown rice pasta in our home because our home is GF (gluten-free). The important thing to remember when using rice-based pastas is that the difference between al dente and mush is only about 30 seconds, and no one likes chicken and mushy noodle soup. Therefore, I typically par-boil the pasta until just before it is al dente and immediately strain it and run it under cold water to stop the cooking. This also rinses the pasta of the milky rice flour-filled water ensuring your soup is clear and not cloudy. Once the rest of the soup is done, I simply add the pasta to warm (not boiling).
If you eliminate the pasta and substitute corn chips as a garnish added at the table, along with some avocado chunks and cheese, you’ll have a delightful classic tortilla soup. My preference is to fry some corn tortillas in peanut oil until they are rock hard because they will taste better and remain crunchy a bit longer than any other chip. The next best alternative is to use the salt-free blue corn chips made by The Garden of Eatin. Salted chips simply make the soup too salty.
The most important ingredient in making chicken based soups is to use homemade stock, not store-bought broth, the difference between the two are night and day. To learn how to make a good chicken stock, go to the Resources tab on our website, www.thymeforachef.com.
Southwest Chicken and Noodle Soup
1 package of brown rice spiral pasta, cooked al dente.
2 tablespoons oil
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
Crushed red pepper, or the dried red pepper of your choosing
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, fine grind
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 8 oz, can of tomato sauce
1 large garlic clove
2 cups frozen corn
1 red bell pepper, ¼” dice
1 green bell pepper, ¼” dice
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 quarts chicken stock
8 green onions, finely sliced, green ends only
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped.
1. Cook the pasta in salted water until the pasta is firm and approaching al dente. Strain and cool with cold water to stop the cooking and wash the pasta of the cloudy water. This prevents the pasta from becoming mushy. Set aside.
2. Place the red pepper, black pepper, cumin, oregano and tomato sauce in a blender and blend to a smooth consistency, breaking up the crushed red pepper and incorporating into the tomato sauce. Set aside.
3. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breasts.
4. In a large pot, big enough to hold one gallon, cook the breasts on medium-high heat to cook through and obtain a nice caramel color. Remove the chicken breasts and allow to cool. Once cooled, dice the chicken into ½” chunks, or shred the chicken.
5. Deglaze the pot with the diced onions, bell peppers and corn.
6. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
7. Start making additions of the red sauce to the stock until you are happy with the level of spiciness. Adjust saltiness as needed.
8. Add the chicken.
9. Bring to a low simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors.
10. Add the pasta and serve, garnishing with the green onion and cilantro.
We have some slots left in our Adult Culinary Boot Camp starting Saturday, March 24th. Classes meet once a month on a Saturday for five months. Detailed class notes, groceries and recipes are provided. For more details, check us out on the web at www.thymeforachef.com. Come join us for a memorable learning experience you will use for the rest of your life. Contact us to enroll for a very fun and very filling experience.
Chef David Hall
Thyme for a Chef, LLC