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Monday, October 24, 2011

Manic Monday

Ah, Monday.  I can always tell when it's Sunday afternoon because I feel instantly less relaxed and begin preparing for the eventuality:  Monday's coming.

I've talked about starting rehearsals for a play I'm directing called "Inspecting Carol," a mash-up of "Christmas Carol" and "Noises Off"--a small professional theatre company's trials and travails putting on an underrehearsed production of "Christmas Carol" in light of National Endowment for the Arts funding cuts, actors behaving badly and sets falling apart. 

I always feel nervous when I start directing a show.  If it doesn't come together, I'm ultimately responsible because it's my job to be the leader.  (My low point yesterday was when I whined at my husband "Why do I have to be the leader?"  The logical response would be that I have directed a dozen shows, but David knew better than to try logic).  This all gets much better, mind you, when rehearsals actually start.  Anticipation is a killer.

Yesterday afternoon, in advance of our first rehearsal, I combated my stress by cooking.  What started as a slow-cooker chicken chile verde morphed as I realized I didn't have all the ingredients I needed.  Instead, it became a smoky, flavorful and healthy soup of chicken chunks, Guajillo pepper flakes and onion, served over rice.  In other words, the perfect take-to-work lunch.

My lunch, sitting on the chaos that is my desk.
The recipe originally called for a can of minced jalapeños and their juice.  I used a whole dried Guajillo pepper, pounded in my mortar and pestle, which added the smoky flavor but not much heat.  It takes a couple of minutes longer, but I would recommend using either a good dried pepper or fresh poblanos, depending on what you have available.

Slow-Cooker Guajillo Chicken Soup
Adapted from Slow Cooker:FoodMadeFast

3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 large dried Guajillo pepper, pounded in a mortar and pestle
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 large yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried fennel seeds

Look at the pretty new backsplash!
 1 tbsp. hot sauce, plus more to taste
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Sour cream, chopped cilantro and white rice, for serving

In the pot of the slow cooker, add the chicken breast chunks and sprinkle the pepper over them.  Then add the broth, onion, oregano, garlic and fennel seed.

Here it is just going into the slow cooker.  Not so appealingat this point--it gets better!
Set the slow cooker to cook for four hours on high heat.  At the halfway point, add the hot sauce and vinegar and taste the broth.  Add more hot sauce or vinegar if it needs more heat or acid, plus salt and pepper to taste.

Now that's a better color.  The soup took on the color of the pepper, along with a hit of color from the hot sauce.
Serve over rice with the sour cream and cilantro.  If you have lemon or lime wedges on hand, serve on the side for squeezing over the soup.

There's no added fat in this soup;  to keep it healthy, I served it with reduced-fat sour cream.
Serves 6 as a main course.


  1. I have a big new slow cooker that is BEGGING to be broken in! I hate that initial feeling of "what if I can't"...but thank goodness it's followed by a flurry of activity and then the big finale...success! The best of luck to you and your efforts!

  2. This does look delicious! A great lunch to take to work, indeed!

  3. Can't wait to come see Inspecting Carol - and that soup looks amazing!

  4. This looks delicious and since I can't handle the heat of jalapenos...I'd say it's just right! I bet when the curtain goes up for opening night, it'll all be wonderful and worth it!

  5. I'm with Ann. Can't handle jalapeños! so this sound absolutely perfect!

  6. oozing with flavours and chillies are up there on our list of whats added into the cooking I do, we simply love spicy food so much, esp my hubby.

  7. This does comfort and warm. I love Inspecting Carol! After directing huge casts for 25 years, I know exactly where you are coming from. And in the winter - I always went to rehearsal after being fortified with soup. This is a winner.

  8. ...this is appropriate for 40 degree temps. HOW DO YOU LIVE IN THAT WEATHER!? Wow. The dish looks amazing though, I'm sure it will be equally delicious in 70 degree temperatures :)

  9. LOL at Parsley Sage...I think we'd all love to live where she does! Now on to your lovely dish...isn't it marvelous that you've now invented a new dish that is so delicious??? It sounds fabulous! And I'm certain your production will be a smashing would be a bad sign if you weren't a little wary...good luck to you!

  10. Thanks for all the good wishes, everyone! It's going to be a crazy four and a half weeks through opening, and I very much appreciate the support.

    ParsleySage, this is just what I'm used to now--I've lived in Minnesota in the summer in an apartment with no air conditioning, and New Orleans in the summer too. This is much easier!

  11. This looks spicy good. And here is a trick Anticipation equals apprehension. Compartmentalize, immediate task or priority in mind, nothing else. Helps to makes things go more smoothly.

  12. Ha-someone has to be a leader and you are it because of your talents! I get in that mode sometimes about wanting to be a participant but not wanting to head up the whole thing..
    Anyhow your soup does look tasty and fairly easy to make-perfect when you are squeezed for time. Thanks for sharing.

  13. What a small world!!!! I didn't go to Iowa State, but I did grow up in Ames, where ISU is located! My dad was a physics professor and my mom taught calligraphy in the Design dept. I went to the University of Iowa in Iowa City :)

  14. Oh! this looks so delicious and the perfect dish for a healthy packed lunch!

    I would be so stressed if I was responsible for a play! WOW!!!

    Goodluck :) I am sure it will be super :)

  15. I actually have some dried Guajillos in the pantry. Was wondering what to do with them. I love "Noises Off"! I would love to see your production of this play. Good luck!

  16. I have to give this soup a shot this week. Will have to cut back on the heat a little but this is too hard to resist. Awesome!

  17. Wow! Looks fantastic!