Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dehydrated Tortilla Chicken Soup

The most frequent question I am asked when people find out that we are serious about hiking the PCT is what we are doing for food. Apparently, this is the most mysterious part. Tortilla chicken soup is something our family greatly enjoys eating for a normal dinner at home. It contains very few ingredients; it's a simple, nourishing meal; and the warm hearty nature makes it great for backpacking. I figured I'd give it a go and try some things to make an MRE out of it.

The recipe is as follows first for a large batch (about 4 servings) then a single batch. Each batch feeds between 2 or 3 people. Scroll down for a tutorial on how to dehydrate chicken stock and rehydration instructions. All our dehydrated items have been tested for at least 8 months, though many last for over a year if properly dehydrated.

One Large Batch of Dehydrated Tortilla Chicken Soup
approximately 13 cups dehydrated

9 cups finely ground stale tortilla chips or stale tortillas
4 quarts chicken stock
2 medium squash or 6 sweet potatoes dehydrated
2 cups dehydrated salsa
2 cups NIDO whole milk powder (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE NON-FAT)
1/2 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup oregano

One Single Serving of Dehydrated Tortilla Chicken Soup
approximately 2.5 cups dehydrated

1 1/2 cups ground stale tortilla chips or stale tortillas
1 pint chicken stock
1/4 of a squash or 1 sweet potato dehydrated
1/4 cup dehydrated salsa
1/4 cup NIDO whole milk powder (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE NON-FAT)
4 Tblspns garlic powder
2 Tblspns oregano

As with any recipe, test this before heading out into the backcountry without any backup. This is the way our family likes the taste. You might prefer less salsa and more garlic. You might want it spicier and will omit some of the NIDO.

Non-fat milk powder creates a very strange blend when mixed with the salsa. I don't know what the combination does (the acidity of the salsa maybe?) but it doesn't rehydrate smoothely and leaves a chunky, almost spoiled flavor. Use NIDO or some other whole milk powder. You can find NIDO on Amazon (really expensive!), at Walmart (pretty darn cheap), and at many ethnic food stores (also cheap). You can find whole milk powder at Natures, Whole Foods, and many natural food stores in the bulk food sections. Whole milk powder is completely stable at room temperature and can last over 3 years without beginning to spoil or loose nutrients. If you are backpacking, you need the fat anyway!

Dehydrating the Chicken Stock

Since you are basically trying to dehydrate a liquid, you need a medium to pour into and hold all the tasty goodness. This is where the chips come in. They absorb the chicken stock and then when dehydrated the eliminate the water. The tasty goodness is trapped inside the chips and stores remarkably well.

The tortilla chips always work best if they are stale. They tend to grind finer and absorb better. If available, use stale ones. Whatever the case, grind them up as fine as your food processor can get them.

The counter and floor didn't fare too well when I began to stir, but the dogs thought it was wonderful.

Pour the chicken stock in a large bowl, and then dump the ground chips on top. If you were brilliant like I was and grabbed the smaller of my large bowls, stir carefully. If you were much more intelligent and picked the biggest large bowl, stir however fast you would like. Then set aside overnight.

If your glop looks chunky in the morning, just run it through the food processor till smooth. If for some reason it is not runny enough, add a bit more stock. The final product should look and have the consistency of pablum.

In the morning, you should have something the consistency of baby food. It will probably look about as appetizing as well. Trust me, in the end, it will taste good.

At this point it should smell much better. The Barracuda seems to feel this stuff tastes like the outside breading of a chicken nugget. I have not eaten it at this point, but feel free. He assures me it is delicious!

Pour the goop onto a fruit leather tray and dehydrate at 145-155 degrees for 10 hours. You need to keep it up to at least 145 in order to properly kill any lurking bacteria. Any lower will not keep the temperature high enough for long enough.

Check it at 10 hours. The entire tray should be cracked and extremely brittle. If the pieces don't pull up in stiff blocks, they need more time. If while pulling the pieces up, you discover a section that is still squishy underneath or pliable, they need more time.

Once completely dry, give them another whirl in the food processor. If the pieces are brittle enough, the consistency should be close to sand. This means your soup will rehydrate in a matter of a couple minutes. The smaller the pieces, the quicker the rehydration. Mix thoroughly with the other dehydrated ingredients and package. Two and a half cups makes approximately 2-3 servings. It's rich stuff. As always, try it before you take outside and depend on it.

To Rehydrate

Use twice as much water as powder. Bring water to a boil, stir in powder and boil for 3 minutes. Stir thoroughly. Turn off heat, put the lid on the pot and let sit 5 minutes stirring occasionally. At this point it should be a smooth soup. Enjoy!

1 thoughts:

Jenn said...

That is sheer genius! I'm not brave enough for a hike, but it's still a great idea just for handling leftover stale chips and chicken broth. Tortilla soup is a favorite with my family and I've been looking for food storage items that we could use when the power goes out in the winter time. This is perfect!

I found your blog through a VERY helpful comment you left at my blog. I've been on a blog break, so I'm not sure how long ago you left it, but I wanted to thank you for the "chin up" encouragement, thoughtful advice (remembering the hopeful waiting of Advent,) and helpful advice (3M tape, which I will be stocking up on.)

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