Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Craving Some Home Comforts

     I'm a Native Texan. 
     See the capitalization on the word "Native"?  That's a big deal to me.  I was born in Texas and lived there for most of the first 20 years of my life.  That makes me a Native.
     Texas is very much it's own little world.  There's a deep sense of pride that Texans feel that I've never quite seen anywhere else in the world.  
Living in Texas is nothing like what a lot of people expect it to be.  I've heard a number of stereotypes since I've traveled that make me kind of scratch my head wondering if people really think that about Texans.
For example, I grew up in an area that was heavily forested.
 (Yep... like looking out the window at my Mom's house...)

Notice, it's not a desert.  No cacti and tumbleweeds.
Sure, we had ranches in the area, but I certainly didn't grow up on one.   
No, I didn't own my own horse.  (In fact, I've only been on a horse about ten times in my entire life!)
I don't think I've ever owned cowboy boots.

I did, however, grow up eating a lot of tortillas and beans.  In fact, my Grandmother (on my Dad's side) was Hispanic so I ate a lot of Mexican foods.

Probably one of my favorite foods to make on these chilly Autumn days is Tortilla Soup- which, oddly enough, my Grandmother NEVER made for me.  I had it for the first time when I was 21 and I was hooked!  It wasn't long before I was working on my own recipe to make the very best tortilla soup ever.  My version has a mild spice and tender shredded chunks of chicken surrounded by a hearty broth that just makes the tongue happy.  A scoop of fresh queso fresco (yes, I MADE cheese!!!) and a wedge of lime to squeeze over the top just add another layer to this amazing meal.

Tortilla Soup

1TBS vegetable oil
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 small onion diced
1 jalapeno diced (remove the seeds for less heat)
2 cups of tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 cup of corn tortillas, cut into thin noodle-like strips
3 chicken thighs
1/2 cup of beer (use a Mexican ale or lager!)
2 cups chicken broth
limes for garnish

Sweat all of the vegetables in the vegetable oil.  When softened, add spices and half of the tortillas, stir to combine.  Add in chicken thighs and liquids.  Cover and continue to cook on low for 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and shred.  Return shredded chicken to the pan.  Add in remaining tortilla strips and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve hot with lime wedges.

(I also like to add a bit of fresh cheese, sour cream, and jalapeno slices to mine and dip crunchy fresh tortilla chips into it.  My Hubby seems to prefer it plain with cheese and lime.)

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