Tag Archives: Mexican

Recipe: Tortilla Soup

16 Sep

School’s back in. The weather is cooling off. Trees are starting to turn. It’s feeling fall-ish and therefore time to make some soup.

Sadly soup is one of the things that Mr. Bacon finds offensive. Something about it being ‘not real food’. I can appreciate why he feels commercial soups that are 90% flavourless broth are not ‘real food’ but when I make soup, it’s usually so thick and chock full of tasty things that it definitely (to steal a slogan from Chunky Soup) eats like a meal.

This recipe is no exception. Given to me by a friend, the first time I tried it, I knew I would love it before the recipe was even finished. The rich, warm spicy smell that comes out of the pot automatically gets my tastebuds dancing. Like a lot of things I make, this recipe freezes really well and is a great option for a brown bag lunch.

Tortilla Soup

3 tbsp cooking oil
1 bag of tortilla chips
1 onion, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chipotle powder (you can substitute chili powder, but the chipotle adds a hint of smoky flavour)
small pinch of cayenne
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth (6 cups)
3 cups crushed tomatoes (1 28 oz can)
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 3/4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 can corn niblets (Mexicorn if you can find it)
1 can black or kidney beans, rinsed
1 avocado, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/4 pound cheddar, grated
Lime wedges, cilantro leaves and tortillas for garnish

Cook the chicken – either roast it in the oven with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper (about 15-20 minutes at 400F), or in a pan. Or take a lesson in laziness from me, and use the meat from a pre-cooked grocery store BBQ chicken.

In a large heavy pot heat the oil, add the onion, garlic and spices – cook while stirring for 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cilantro leaves and about 2-3 good handfuls of tortilla chips. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes; remove the bay leaves.

Break out your immersion blender and whizz the soup base until it’s smooth. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches in your blender. Don’t fill it too full!) Then add the chicken, corn and beans then bring to a simmer and cook until done – about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the avocado (or leave it out all together if you’re not an avocado fan like me).

Serve the soup by placing a small handful of slightly crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl. Top with the soup, shredded cheese, and cilantro. Add a generous squeeze of lime to the top – the lime really makes the dish!

Recipe: Carnitas (Pork) Tacos

31 Aug

In Canada, some people might mistake these for tacos…

However, they are wrong.

In Mexico, the Southwestern US and restaurants who are savvy, you can get real tacos. The meats are traditionally grilled or slow cooked, the salsa and other toppings are really fresh and so are the tortillas. And when you’ve had a real one, you don’t ever want to go back to the kind made with ground beef and a packet of spice.

So how do you get real tacos if you don’t happen to live near a purveyor of such delicious things? Well, you have to make your own and really it’s not that hard.

I like to make pork tacos which are known as carnitas. I also make my own tortillas and salsa. And I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, that sounds really hard.” Trust me, if it was, I wouldn’t do it. I’m too lazy for that!

Putting all three recipes in one blog post would be a bit extreme, so check out my recipes for corn tortillas and salsa on different pages.

Carnitas (Pork) Tacos

1 large pork shoulder roast (sometimes called pork butt), cut into 2″ cubes
salt & pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small onion, peeled & halved
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano**
juice of 1 lime plus 1 whole lime, halved seeds removed and juiced
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon

Throw everything into a heavy bottomed pot and simmer on low until tender (about 2 hours).

When ready to serve, add some pork and a generous ladle of drippings to a frying pan to crisp/caramelize the meat slightly.

This will make enough pork to feed a huge crowd but it freezes really well for future enjoyment. Just make sure to add some of the drippings to each dish of pork you’re saving.

Enjoy in fresh tortillas, with fresh salsa, lettuce, sour cream, cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime.

** You can use regular oregano but the Mexican kind has a slightly different flavour profile. I get mine at La Tiendita, a latin grocery store on Merivale Rd. near Carling. The entrance is actually in La Cabana restaurant. You can also buy fresh tortillas here if you want to wuss out on making your own.

Recipe: Salsa Fresca

31 Aug

Mr. Bacon has been planting a garden for the past couple of years. It’s fantastic because it does cut down on the amount of produce we need to buy at the store. The downside is trying to figure out what to do with all of the bounty before it goes bad. If you’re like us and have a whack of roma, cherry or grape tomatoes to use up, you need to test this recipe out. I will swear on a pound of bacon that it’s better than Lone Star’s and theirs is damn good.

Salsa Fresca

3 cups of grape, cherry or roma tomatoes (if you’re using roma, take out the cores and cut into three pieces)
1 small white onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 lime
kosher salt to taste

In a food processor, add the onion and the diced jalapeno and whizz until the onion is at a fine dice stage. Toss in the cilantro (I just rip a handful off the bunch) and throw the tomatoes in on top. Pulse until you get the desired consistency but beware of over blending – you don’t want gazpacho.

Transfer the mixture into a bowl and squeeze in the lime. Salt liberally and stir. Let the salsa sit about 15 minutes for the flavour to marry.


Tips & Tricks: Homemade Corn Tortillas

31 Aug

I’m not a huge fan of flour tortillas unless they’re being used for some sort of sandwich wrap. They don’t have a lot of flavour, and the ones in the grocery store are kind of like chewy cardboard. A few stores carry commercial corn tortillas now, but I find the texture on them a bit weird too.

It might be because I’m spoiled by hot, fresh corn flour tortillas. They’re super easy to make and are WAAAY cheaper than store bought. For about $5, I pick up a bag of Maseca masa mix. It looks like this and is available at most large mainstream grocery stores. This bag will make multiple batches of about 10 tortillas vs. about $3.50 for 10 at the grocery store. Added bonus for celiac sufferers – they’re gluten/wheat free!

You’ll also need a large ziplock freezer bag, a flat griddle or a crepe pan and a tortilla press which can be obtained at your friendly local Latin market, some speciality kitchenware stores or online for about $20.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Follow the instructions on the bag of masa – it’s 2 cups of mix, a dash of salt and 1 1/8 (ish) cup of warm water. Add the salt to the masa and stir before slowly adding the water. Combine the water and masa with your hands and keep adding water until you have a playdough like consistency and the dough sticks together. Depending on how humid a day it is, you may need to add more or less water than last time.

Take golfball sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls. When all your dough is rolled, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.

Put your pan on just a little over medium heat. It’ll take some fiddling/testing to see what the perfect temperature on your stove/griddle is but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

Take your freezer bag, and cut the zip portion and the sides off leaving the bottom of the bag so you have a rectangular piece of plastic with a fold in the middle that fits your tortilla press like this.

Place the ball of dough in between the two sheets of plastic and squish it between the plates of the press, turning it once or twice to get an even press.

Then pick up the plastic, open it and place the tortilla face down on your palm. Slowly peel away the plastic and then carefully flop the tortilla on to your hot griddle.

Cook it for 30 seconds on one side, then flip. Cook for 30 seconds on that side and flip again. Cook on this side for about 1 minute. At this point the tortilla should puff up in the middle like a balloon. If it’s not, your grill might be too hot or too cold.

If you’re not getting some browning, it’s too cold. If you’re getting singeing, it’s too hot. Don’t worry about getting a perfect ‘balloon’ each time. Even if they don’t get super fluffy, they’re still good.

Keep the finished tortillas wrapped in a tea towel in a covered casserole, or in a tortilla warmer like this. I also use mine to keep pancakes warm when I have company!

All in all, it should take you about 15 minutes to make a batch of tortillas. If you get a helper to warm up the pork, make the salsa and dice the veggies, you can have a fresh taco truck worthy dinner on the table in 20 minutes. Not too shabby!

Recipe: Mexican Chicken Skillet

24 Jun

For those of you who have not jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon, you’d better get there soon before the wagon fills up. It’s a great place for recipes, home decor, craft, organizational and other ideas. It’s also a great place to waste a lot of time so beware 🙂

Most ‘pins’ come from blogs, magazines, or other kinds of websites, but more often now people are just uploading photos of their dinners directly to the site with a bit of rough explanation for a ‘how to’. That’s where I found this rough recipe (pin). I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but I’ll just have to send a random ‘thank you’ to the interwebs cause this was a winner. It was quick, easy and had a nice spicy flavour. Low fat too!

Mexican Chicken Skillet
2 large chicken breasts, cubed into 1″ cubes
1 can of Rotel
1 packet taco spice
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups instant rice
2 cups grated cheddar, Mexican blend, or marble cheese

Over medium high heat, place the cubed chicken in a deep 12″ frying pan sprayed with Pam. Fry until just brown and then add 1 can of Rotel, 1 1/2 cups of water, taco spice and salt. Stir to combine and let it come to a good boil. Throw the rice in and stir. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and let it simmer for about 7-10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. Add the 2 cups of cheese to the top and cover again until it melts. Serve with taco chips.

Notes, tips & tricks:

  • Use heavy duty kitchen shears to cut through meat. It’s fast and easy and you don’t have to dirty a cutting board!
  • If you don’t have Rotel, you can substitute 1/2 can of diced tomatoes and some diced jalapeno.
  • Other substitutions: swap the white rice for brown, add a can of black beans and a can of corn to feed a larger crowd for less (or just add those and omit the chicken for a vegetarian option).
  • Tired of Lean Cuisine for lunch? Make a double batch and package the leftovers in microwaveable/freezable containers. You’ll never be scrambling for a lunch in the morning again.