Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gayle's Famous Taco Soup

For many years, Robert's mother, Gayle, made taco soup every fall. With the weather finally becoming cooler (and my husband sick with the croup), I decided to make him a homecooked meal that was sure to warm his heart.

There's actually a wonderful story about this soup. As many of you know, Robert's mother passed away in May 2005, and, selfishly, it is one of my greatest regrets that I will never have the opportunity to know her. While she was ill, during Robert's last year in college, Robert returned to Dallas and spent those last months with his parents. Although painful, he often thinks fondly to that time.

Anyway, although his family was able to gain closure in the most significant ways, there was one thing that Robert forgot to do before his mother passed: get her recipe for Gayle's Famous Taco Soup. Gayle, knowing the recipe by heart, never wrote it down, and although Robert often helped, he never made the recipe entirely by himself. So, for more than a year after his mother was gone, Robert went without Taco Soup.

Until one day, Robert and I were taking a nap together. The weather had turned cold, and it was just the kind of Saturday that called for a batch of Gayle's Famous Taco Soup. Robert had talked about it before we drifted off, wishing that he remembered the recipe.

Midway through an otherwise forgettable nap, I awoke with a start as Robert leapt up from the couch and hurriedly searched for a pen and paper. (For those of you who know him well, I'm sure you're surprised to learn that Robert didn't sleep with a pen in his pocket.) When I asked him what he was doing, he told me to shut up. I was a little offended until he told me what had happened.

Believe it or not (and I believe it), Robert dreamed the recipe for Gayle's Famous Taco Soup. He remembered back to each step -- cooking down the chicken stock, sautéing the chicken, adding the wine, opening the cans of vegetables -- as if he was cooking the recipe in his mother's kitchen with his mom. After a few remarkable minutes, it was done: Robert had written down verbatim every step in the recipe!

Below you'll find Gayle's Famous Taco Soup. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do as fall finally arrives!

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Gayle's Famous Taco Soup

2 pounds chicken (I use a mix of bone in, skin on chicken thighs and breasts)
1 yellow onion
3 stalks of celery and the celery heart
3 carrots
8-10 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine (I use Chardonnay)
4 green onions, diced
1 28 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
2 15 ounce cans low-sodium black beans, drained
2 15 ounce cans no salt added yellow corn, drained
1 64 ounce jug low-sodium V8 Juice
1 packet McCormick taco seasoning
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

In a large pot place the chicken, celery, carrots and onion.
Cover with water, about 8-10 cups.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for an hour. Discard the vegetables.

Remove the chicken and shred with two forks.
In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the chicken and the wine and saute until most of the wine has cooked off.
Add the chicken, green onion, tomatoes, corn, beans, V8 juice, taco seasoning, Ranch dressing mix and cilantro to the pot and stir. (Sorry there aren't more photos, in my hunger to eat I missed some photos!)
Cook over medium high heat for 30 minutes to an hour. Serve with Fritos and shredded cheese.

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