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For major comfort, make meaty taco soup

A spread of soups dominated this week’s food section (see the e-edition). While the weather still warrants it, soups and stews should indeed get their due. Plus they’re a balm to those suffering sniffles and sore throats, as this blog’s previous post acknowledged.

When you’re just not up to a major production in the kitchen, soups are a cook’s saving grace, particularly when they can be stored in the fridge for several days and reheated or frozen for emergency meals. And when we’re in need of major comfort, a majorly meaty soup is in order.

This one from the Chicago Tribune simmers all day in the slow cooker, or cook it for several hours less in a multi-cooker. Recipe testers prefer sauce-based taco seasoning made from tomatoes and onions rather than powdered seasoning. If taco sauce pouches are not available, substitute a dried (1-ounce) seasoning pack along with an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce.

Reminiscent of carne asada tacos, this soup can carry the full complement of taqueria trimmings: avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce and cheese. I’d even enjoy some pickled jalapenos and carrots on the side.

Slow Cooker Short-Rib Taco Soup

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs

1/2 to 3/4 pound flank steak or skirt steak, cut into 3 pieces

2 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil or safflower oil

1 large poblano pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 large yellow onion, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced

3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

1 (8-ounce) pouch ground beef taco seasoning sauce

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, undrained


Crumbled seasoned tortilla chips

Shredded cheese such as Monterey jack, Chihuahua or brick

Diced ripe avocado

Diced canned or fresh tomatoes

Chopped fresh cilantro

Green hot sauce

Lime wedges

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and pepper. Add the short ribs; toss to coat. Add the flank steak; toss to coat.

In a large, nonstick skillet with deep sides over medium, heat the oil until hot. Add meat in a single uncrowded layer. Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a 4- or 6-quart slow cooker. Repeat to brown all meat.

Add the poblano and onion to pan drippings in skillet. Cook and stir until onion is golden, for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic; cook, for 1 minute. Scrape into slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, taco seasoning sauce and 3 to 4 cups water. (Meat should be barely covered with liquid.)

Cook, covered, on low setting, for 6 hours. Add the black beans in last hour or so. Use tongs to remove meat from slow cooker to a cutting board. Discard bones from short ribs. Use two large forks to pull meat into shreds.

Return shredded meat to slow cooker. Taste and adjust seasonings. (If desired, refrigerate covered for several days. Scrape off and discard solidified fat from surface of soup before reheating. After reheating, adjust consistency with water and then adjust seasonings with salt.)

Serve in wide soup bowls topped with garnishes as desired. Pass the hot sauce and lime wedges for guests to add to taste.

Makes about 12 cups, 12 servings.

DUTCH OVEN METHOD: Heat oven to 350 F. Brown meat as directed in Step 2 in bottom of a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Then remove browned meat to proceed with Step 3. Return meat to Dutch oven and add remaining ingredients as directed in Step 3, but increasing water to 4 or 5 cups. Bake, tightly covered, stirring once or twice, until meat is fall-apart tender, for about 2 hours. Add the black beans. Proceed with Steps 5 and 6 to serve.

Tribune News Service photo