Let me just start with one fact. I am a longtime fan of actor John Wayne. I particularly like his Westerns, although I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watched Hatari and The Quiet Man…both excellent movies by the way. Yes, I have visited his birthplace in Winterset, Iowa. I made my sister go there with me on our way to Minnesota…and on our way back home…just in case we missed something. And yes, we visited it again when they opened the John Wayne Museum in Winterset. How could we not go back for that?
Over the years, I have picked up or been given a few John Wayne collectible items including a blanket, bobble head, playing cards, puzzle, and even a full-size standee that I had in my office for years. So it did not come as any surprise to my family when I put The Official John Wayne Family Cookbook on my Christmas list. I thought, even if it didn’t end up providing me with a single good recipe, it would be fun to have. Now I’m on a mission to see just how good my new cookbook is…and I have high hopes for it. Along the way, I might just have to share a few thoughts on my favorite Westerns, even though I have to admit, they do not all star The Duke. Sorry.
I have chosen Mexican Chicken Noodle Soup as my first recipe since we are in the middle of some pretty cold weather right now and I thought a warm soup would be nice. And, as The Duke nicely put it in The Cowboys, “we’re burnin’ daylight”, so let’s get started.
First of all, if you are in a hurry, this is probably not the soup for you. It
took me longer than I expected, but that frequently happens the first time I try a recipe. I did have one semi-flash of genius and cooked the three cups of chicken I needed the night before. Having it already cooked and shredded really helped speed the final soup assembly along.
So getting back to the actual cooking night, next up was getting the rest of the ingredients ready to add at the appropriate time. To make sure I didn’t miss anything, I chopped all my vegetables and put them in their own bowls. Then I measured out all the spices and had them ready in their own bowls. It probably wasn’t necessary…and I dirtied a lot more dishes than I needed to…but hey…that’s how I’ve seen them do it on cooking shows. With all my ingredients chopped, measured and lined up, I started the assembly. (One side note, I also had a pot of boiling water going and was cooking some penne pasta during the chopping process. The pasta took about 10 minutes to cook and then I drained it and set it aside, as directed.)
This is really where it gets easy. First I put some olive oil in my pretty red Dutch Oven (also a Christmas gift) and cooked some of the vegetables. Then it just came down to adding the rest of the veggies, some spices and several cups of chicken stock. Once I had all that in the pot, I just had to bring it to a boil and then simmer it for 10 minutes. Final step, add the chicken and some corn to the pot. However, this is where I noticed what I consider to be a small mistake in the recipe. The first step of the recipe is to get the pasta cooked and set it aside, but then it never mentions actually adding the pasta to the soup. I think this is an important step but I just assumed it should go in at the end when I added the chicken and corn, so that is what I did.
Final result: I think it is a really tasty soup and not like any I’ve made before. The spice level is just right for me, although at first I thought the chili powder was a little overwhelming. I also think the penne pasta is a nice change from the egg noodles you get in many chicken soups and I made sure not to overcook the pasta so it would hold up in the broth. The soup is easy to make and doesn’t include any crazy ingredients that are hard to find. And, I’m pretty sure I will be using the leftover spices in future recipes.
So…Mexican Chicken Noodle Soup has my approval, but what will my co-workers think? I brought it here to work with me and the reviews have overall been very good. Some think it needs more spice. Others think it is just right. One person thought it smelled too spicy and was afraid to try it, but was finally convinced. Now I have her approval too. There were two suggestions for toppings: tortilla chips and cilantro. I can agree that neither one would hurt this soup and might actually be a good addition. Good work, co-workers! On a scale from one to five, Mexican Chicken Noodle Soup gets a solid four!
Now… what should I make next?
- 8 oz penne pasta
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. chili powder, plus more to taste
- 1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
- 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ tsp. pepper
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2-3 cups cooked chicken shredded or chopped
- 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
Recipe from the John Wayne Family Cookbook.