A hearty soup on a chilly Sunday afternoon is always welcome. But, add the NFC Championship game to the mix and you have a party. Based on a comment by my Facebook friend Malissa Lichtenwalter and the fact that the game is against the cheese-heads, I decided to first make a cheddar beer soup topped with smoked sausage. Then, I add an updated version of one of my favorites, spicy chicken tortilla soup. Both soups have a bit of kick. But, you can dial the heat down by reducing the amount of red pepper flakes and jalapeños. However, you make them, they’ll be perfect for the game!
Cheddar Beer Soup
2 tbl Olive Oil
1 cu Onion, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, smashed and minced
1 cu Carrots, chopped
1 cu Celery, chopped
1 cu Granny Smith Apple, peeled and chopped
2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 tsp Ground Mustard
1 tsp Paprika
1 cu All Purpose Flour
4 cu Chicken Stock
1 Bottle of Beer, 12 oz size (I used Blue Moon)
4 cu Shredded Triple Cheddar Cheese
2 cu Half & Half
1 tbl Whole Grain Dijon Mustard
1 tbl Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 lb Smoked Sausage, cut into a medium dice
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery and apples. Sauté and stir often until onions are translucent and tender for about 15 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, mustard and paprika and sauté for an additional minute. Add flour and stir to combine. Flour should coat all the vegetables. Add chicken stock and beer and bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add cheese and stir until melted. Add Half & Half, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Ladle into individual serving bowls and top with sausage and chives (optional). This soup gets quite thick when refrigerated. To reheat, add a bit of water to thin it out.
Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tbl Olive Oil
2 med Onions, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and minced
1 Celery Stalk, thinly sliced
2 Jalapeños, seeded and minced
3 med Tomatoes, chopped
2 lg Tomatillos, chopped (about 1 cup total)
1 additional tsp Ground Cumin
1 quart Chicken Stock, I’ve been using chicken base (3 tablespoons for 1 quart water)
6 Corn Tortillas, cut into 1/8” strips
Cooking Spray (Pam)
2 Avocados, firm but ripe, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
1/2 cu Fresh Cilantro, roughly chopped
1 Lime, cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse chicken breasts in cold water and pat dry. Mix cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Liberally season chicken on all sides with the spice mix. Place chicken in an oven-proof pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, shred chicken into small pieces with your hands and set aside. Increase heat to 400 degrees F.
Liberally coat tortilla strips with cooking spray and toss lightly. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until strips are crispy. Remove from oven and transfer strips to a paper towel.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, celery, jalapeños, tomatoes and tomatillos. Sauté for 15-20 minutes or until ingredients are tender. Season the mixture with an additional teaspoon of cumin. Add chicken sock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper, to taste.
To serve, ladle soup into individual serving bowls. Top with shredded chicken, avocados, tortilla strips and cilantro. Give your guests a wedge of lime to squeeze into their serving at the table.