One sip of this bold soup and you’ll swear you are sitting on a bench in the Plaza of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a scorching hot, sleepy day where everyone is moving slowly. You can smell the tortillas in the air and watch the sellers at the Governor’s Palace in your mind’s eye. It is a perfect day!
There are many ways to make a chicken soup and this one has a definite Southwestern flavor combination. Not exactly a tortilla soup, it has all the same ingredients with the exception of the tortilla strips. Here chicken is simmered with vegetables and then served with sliced avocado and lime wedges. By substituting vegetable broth for the chicken stock, you can easily transition this to a vegetarian meal.
You can cook your stock from scratch (the recipe follows the soup recipe) or you can use good quality canned stock. If I have the time I always make my own because you just can’t match the depth of chicken flavor you get from cooking it yourself. But when time is short, I often use Swanson’s or Pacific brand stocks.
Blue corn is very specific to the American Southwest and an integral component of many dishes. It has a unique flavor that can’t be replicated with normal corn, but white or yellow cornmeal can be substituted in equal measure with equally good results. I use whatever I have in the pantry to make these muffins.
One of the secrets to extracting a lot of flavor from bones when making stock is starting with cold water and bringing it just to a boil. Then it is important to turn the heat way down and simmer slowly for a long time. If you boil the bones at a high heat, you seal in the juices and you won’t get the depth of a slowly simmered broth.
Enjoy this wonderful soup with either the corn muffins or some crusty bread. You’ll want to sop up every bite!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you are cooking soups with protein in them, impurities will float to the top and form a “scum.” Use a skimmer to extract this scum. It won’t hurt the soup to leave it in, but you will have a cloudy soup if you do. For a perfectly clear broth, like consomme, skimming is imperative.
- 3 quarts rich chicken broth or vegetable stock (see recipes below if you want to make your own from scratch)
- 1 large head of garlic, unpeeled
- 1 large sprig fresh epazote (optional)
- 2 fresh jalapeño chiles, stemmed
- 1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Salt (about 1-1/2 tsp depending on the saltiness of the broth)
- 3/4 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
- About 1 cup coarsely shredded cooked chicken, optional
- 2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 lime, cut into 6 to 8 wedges
- Measure the broth into a large (6-quart) pot. Slice the unpeeled head of garlic in half widthwise and add both halves to the broth along with the optional epazote. Bring to a boil, and then simmer over medium-low, partially covered, for about 1 hour. The liquid should have reduced to about 7 cups. Remove the garlic and epazote, and discard.
- While the broth is simmering, cut the chiles in half lengthwise, and cut out the seedpod. Slice lengthwise into very thin strips, and set aside with the diced onion and tomatoes.
- Generously season the broth with salt, add the chiles and onion, partially cover, and simmer for 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro and optional chicken and simmer another 3 minutes, then ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with avocados, serve to your guests and pass the lime separately for each to squeeze in to their liking.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- MAKE AHEAD: The seasoned broth can be made several days ahead and refrigerated. Finish with chiles, onions, tomatoes, and garnishes just before serving.
- Smoked chicken or other poultry is delicious shredded into the soup. Drizzle in a little crème fraîche to make it richer. Or start with 6 cups chicken broth and 1 cup dry white wine and add 2 lb of clams with the tomatoes; when the clams open, garnish and serve.
- 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3/4 cup softened butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup blue cornmeal (white or yellow cornmeal may be substituted)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup roasted, peeled, diced green chile or 1 tbsp ground mild red chile powder
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease muffin tins well or insert paper liners (or a 9-inch square baking pan).
- In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, saute onion until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for another 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of a electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and buttermilk.
- In another bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Slowly mix these ingredients with the dry mixture. Stir in the corn, cheese and chiles or chile powder, and make sure they are evenly distributed in the batter.
- Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins and bake about 25 minutes, until just firm. If you bake it in a square pan instead of muffin tins, it will take a little longer to finish baking. Serve warm with butter.
- Yield: 1 dozen large muffins or 20 small muffins
- 2 lb chicken pieces or carcasses
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 3 carrots, ends discarded and cut into large pieces
- 3 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into large pieces
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cold water
- Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Place into large stockpot along with the vegetables and herbs. Lightly salt and sprinkle with pepper. Add enough cold water to cover by at least 1 inch. Turn heat on high and cook until it just barely begins to simmer. Turn the heat down to medium-low to keep the stock at a very slow simmer. Skim the top every 15 or 20 minutes, discarding any scum that rises to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for about 6 hours.
- Strain with a fine wire mesh strainer into a very large bowl or another stockpot. Cool immediately and refrigerate as soon as possible. Chill overnight and in the morning discard the solid fat that has accumulated on the top. Stock will hold in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Freeze for up to 3 months. Return to a boil before using, taste and adjust seasonings.
Homemade Vegetable Stock
Use the same basic technique as you did for Chicken Stock, but use a variety of vegetables such as onions, garlic, celery, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, fennel, turnips, zucchini, etc. You can leave the skins on (just rinse really well and remove any obviously dirty parts) they add color and flavor. Adding dark mushrooms will create a nice rich looking broth. Throw everything into a large stockpot, cover with 1 gallon of cold water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before straining out solids.
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