How do you take a recipe and make it your own? Which ingredient and method swaps are easy, and which might compromise the final result? Here I take you through my thought processes and the modifications that will turn a published recipe into one that is tailored to my family’s preferences. And in the end, we’ll enjoy a warm, spicy, delicious bowl of soup!
I just received a copy of the new Joanna Gaines cookbook, Magnolia Table, A Collection of Recipes for Gathering, Volume 2, and I am so excited! It’s filled with mouth-watering recipes and stunning photos. And while I have tagged several of the recipes I want to make in the weeks ahead, the one that caught my eye is the Creamy Chicken Poblano Soup. With it’s predominant flavors of poblano peppers and chicken, there’s little doubt that we’ll enjoy it. However, it’s also got celery, which my family does NOT like, and I’m not a fan of soups that are completely blended with no bites of vegetables remaining. I also suspect that it might benefit from a little bit of acid. So I plan on making a few tweaks to it, to make it match my family’s preferences.
Now, one thing I do want to note here. If the recipe is one that is full of new flavors or is a type of cuisine I’m not familiar with, I typically make it as-published the first time, only leaving out things (like celery) that my family just doesn’t eat. But while this soup is a new recipe, it’s full of familiar flavors, so I am comfortable making the few adjustments I have planned.
The recipe is available on the Magnolia Table website. Let’s walk through how I decided on the changes I will make and what I will do to take this lovely recipe and adapt it for our personal tastes.
First, the vegetables: onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and poblanos. We already discussed that celery is a no-go in our home, so I’m just going to leave that out, I could add extra carrots if I wanted, but I think it’ll be fine to just drop them from the recipe entirely. Onion, carrots, garlic – I’ll leave as is, there’s nothing I want to change with them.
However, moving to the poblanos … Joanna dices the fresh peppers and sautés them at the same time as the other veggies. Because I’ve already decided to not completely blend all of the veggies, I want to be sure that I don’t end up with little pieces of pepper skin in the soup. So I’m going to roast the peppers, remove the skins, then chop them up before adding them to the soup.
Next, let’s move on to the seasonings: salt, black pepper, cumin, thyme. No need for any changes in what is used – I love this mixture of seasonings and they all make sense. For the quantities, I’ll taste as I go and add a touch more of anything if I feel it’s needed, but I suspect I’ll want more thyme than the 1/4 teaspoon she includes.
The rest of the ingredients all look pretty good … chicken broth (I have my own homemade, unsalted broth that I’ve frozen and will use here), heavy cream, cooked & shredded chicken, and then for garnish, some chopped cilantro. No changes needed to any of this. However, other than a tiny tang that will come from the poblano peppers, there’s really no acid included to brighten the flavors. Typically, I would look at three ways of adding a bit of acid … adding some wine in the beginning of the cooking process, after the veggies are sauteed, but before adding other liquids; adding a bit of vinegar near the end of the cooking time; or adding a squeeze of lemon or lime. In this case, with the southwest flavors of this soup, I’ll go with the lime option.
So, with these plans, I’ll move forward and make the recipe. Note what does and doesn’t work, and note additional tweaks to incorporate next time.
An hour later, here are the results:
Wow. I tell you … Joanna Gaines and I make a great team! This soup has a great kick of heat to it, but with the cream and the bites of sweet carrot, it’s not too much at all. I’ll put this in a regular rotation during the winter!