Pickled Jalapenos; Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup; and Chicken Broth

I hope that you all had a lovely week, and that you all made it out to vote this Tuesday!

I got to serve as a poll watcher out here in Chicago, standing by at two voting locations to help ensure that election laws were followed so that people were able to exercise this important Constitutional right. It was a long (13 hour) freezing day, and at the end of it all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and watch the results… until I saw the results. Bleh. Better luck next time, Democrats!

It’s been a busy week for me, so I haven’t had the chance to share the tasty things happening in our kitchen. But today I got to catch my breath, so I decided to pickle some jalapenos and share with you the recipe behind the wonderful simmering brothy smells in our kitchen.

Pickled Jalapenos

The idea came up when Nick and KY were in town not too long ago, and we made a trip to Small Bar, one of the two closest bars to our house, for some pulled pork nachos and sour ales. The nachos, which were wonderful, featured pickled jalapenos that left me licking my fingers.

The sidewalk in front of Small Bar features this. Awesome.

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Matt and Nick representing our Burning Man / Gate colors on the walk home.

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I’m sure everyone you know is into pickling things right now. The dream of the 1890s is alive, and all that. I haven’t quite scrambled onto the pickling bandwagon yet, but I figured I’d make jalapenos my gateway drug.

Gathering inspiration from David LebovitzI sliced up a handful of jalapenos, carrots, red onion, and another unknown red pepper I found in the fridge. These were added to a simmering pot of half white vinegar and half water, seasoned with bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, sugar, and garlic.

And here it is! My first jar of pickled anything.

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Most likely we’ll eat these quickly, so I didn’t bother with “canning” them properly. That’s another bandwagon I haven’t made my way onto yet, but hopefully soon I’ll have the money and time to explore it.

Specifically, we’ll probably eat these with the slow cooked Mexican chicken soup that’s wafting through our kitchen right now.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

Do you have a slow cooker? If you do, like me you probably LOVE IT, and look for excuses to use it. If you don’t, I strongly suggest adding that to your kitchen wish list. We got a fairly cheap, fairly basic one (this) when we moved in together about a year and a half ago, and it has been one of the most useful investments we’ve made. Throw in a bunch of meat (or veggies, or beans), add liquid and spices, and leave it on all day. You can smell your food slowly being transformed into tender, juicy whatever, and you don’t even have to think about it.

Enough of my proselytizing. I discovered this recipe from Against All Grain while we were doing a Whole 30 a while back (which turned into a Whole 14 or so, better luck next time!) and we’ve made it several times since. Not only is it incredibly easy, but it’s incredibly flavorful, and it’s incredibly likely that you have most of the ingredients in your fridge/pantry already.

And what you don’t have (besides the chicken, of course, because that’s basically the point of the recipe) you can improvise!

For example:

  • We’ve done the recipe with fresh tomatoes as called for, but it’s just as good (and more economical, especially as tomato season is over) with a 15 oz can of tomatoes.
  • We’ve used poblano peppers, jalapenos, and the unknown red pepper I referenced above. We also tried canned ancho chiles one time– be warned! NOT a good substitution. The ancho chile version tasted fine the first day, but the next day it had overpowered the rest of the soup. Because this soup only gets better and better on days two, three, and four (it probably keeps getting better longer than that, but we’ve never had any left beyond day four), I recommend using fresh peppers, not canned ones.
  • I imagine this would be just as good with any bone-in chicken cuts you have available. The bones are what transform the water into delicious broth, so boneless cuts probably wouldn’t do as good of a job. HOWEVER, if you have chicken broth (especially homemade) on hand but no bone-in chicken cuts, I imagine that using broth and boneless chicken cuts would still yield a pretty decent soup. More on homemade broth below.
  • The first time I made this I didn’t have coriander. I added a little bit of cayenne and a little more cumin, and while the coriander flavor does add a wonderful depth to the finished soup, it was just fine.  (To be honest, I always add a little more cumin to recipes calling for cumin. 1 teaspoon for an entire soup? Hmm. I think I use about a tablespoon. The same is true for garlic. Any recipe that calls for ONE clove of garlic is suspect.)

Bottom line: Awesome, easy, versatile chicken soup.

Not exactly photogenic, but still awesome.

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Chicken Broth 

Really, anything broth. If you roast / braise / slow cook any cuts of meat with bone, you can probably make broth. And it’s worth it.

Do you have a big pot? A sort of big pot? A pot big enough to fit the bones/tendons/organs/fat/other parts that you don’t want to eat? You can make broth.

We make broth with chicken carcasses, duck carcasses, cornish game hen carcasses, pork shoulder bones, shrimp shells, lobster shells, whatever. And it goes a little something like this:

1) Take carcass/bones/organs/fat/other parts and add to large pot.

2) Add water to the pot to cover the stuff you just added.

3) Put the pot on the stove and bring to a boil.

4) Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for hours. Days, preferably. We always simmer our broth at LEAST overnight.

5) Once the broth smells (and tastes! you can taste it!) rich and wonderful, strain the liquid and throw out all the solids.

6) Save the liquids either in your fridge (for use within the week), or in your freezer (for long term use). We usually wait for the liquids to cool enough to be poured into a freezer bag and freeze them that way for months. Don’t forget to label what the broth is! I believe someone recently suggested freezing broth in an ice cube tray, so you can easily thaw small portions for addition to soups, pastas, or other dishes.

That’s all for today. No baked goods this time. I am baking another batch of the bagels to bring for Matt’s dad this evening– we’ve been invited to sportsball– but you already know about those, so that’s not exciting.

Till soon,

BAKE OR DEATH!

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2 thoughts on “Pickled Jalapenos; Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup; and Chicken Broth

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