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A few weeks back, my father handed me a bag of chilindrinas (bread rolls from Mexico) one of his ranch foremen brought back from Chihuahua. Inside the bag were two wooden paper-wrapped containers that I instantly assumed was fresh queso cheese—they always send fresh queso! Later on that week, when I found myself in the throws of battling the flu, I dragged myself into the kitchen to make some semblance of a dinner that didn’t come from the prepackaged section at the grocery store—when under pressure my husband crumbles and buys the worst meals possible.
After determining I had everything I needed for my favorite crock pot chicken tortilla soup recipe, I became ridiculously excited that I had fresh and authentic queso cheese to sprinkle on top of the soup prior to serving. I threw everything into the food processor that needed to be pureed, browned the chicken thighs and prior to dumping everything into my crock pot decided to taste the cheese just in case I needed to readjust the seasoning of my liquid base.
Ten minutes later, I finally manage to get the damn thing open and guess what?! It’s not cheese! It’s caramel! Now, I have three containers of delicious cajeta! What's your favorite way to use cajeta?
Frustrated, I headed straight for my wine fridge and randomly pulled out a bottle of Tempranillo and dumped everything into the crock pot and forgot all about the lack of queso cheese in my refrigerator.
My husband is the pickiest eater. If I make anything containing jalapeños, he carries on like an infant and usually makes himself a grilled cheese for dinner. This is the one exception and it has replaced his former favorite chicken tortilla soup from a local restaurant which everyone once raved about until they tasted this.
- 1 can diced tomatoes preferably with diced jalapeño
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 cup diced and seeded jalapeño chiles
- 5 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
- 2 pounds skinless, chicken thighs, fat trimmed, lightly browned
- 3 limes
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 1⁄2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels
- 2 small avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- optional: tortilla chips, sour cream, queso cheese
- In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeño chiles to taste and 1 cup of the stock and process until smooth. Pour into a slow cooker.
- Add the chicken thighs, the remaining 4 1⁄2 cups stock, juice of 1 lime, vinegar, cumin, bay leaves, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover and cook on the low setting for 5 hours. The chicken will be very tender.
- Transfer the chicken pieces along with a little bit of the juices into the food processor or into a bowl deep enough to use an immersion blender. Using a large spoon, skim away the fat from the braising liquid. Return the chicken meat to the slow cooker. Add the corn kernels, cover, and cook on the low setting until the corn is tender, about 15 minutes more.
- Cut the remaining 2 limes into wedges. Ladle the soup into warm shallow bowls, distributing all the ingredients evenly. Garnish each bowl with some of the avocados, cilantro, sour cream, queso cheese and tortilla chips.
For a wine pairing, consider going regional with your pairing. An Albariño would be crisp and refreshing paired up against the subtle spice of the soup. Or if you're all about the big and bold, consider a Spanish red wine, such as a Tempranillo.