It’s been unusually cold on the Mendocino Coast. It's the kind of weather that shows on ashen lips and huddled bodies, a conversation starter that always ends with an exclamation point. Needless to say, this is soup weather—a time for something warming and easy.
Here’s one I especially love. It’s a soup I learned in Mexico, where all variations on this theme are sold as caldo de pollo, or chicken broth, at simple stalls in central food markets. It’s so adaptable that I never bother with a recipe.
I’ve already sung the praises of the Spanek Vertical Roaster, which I used to make Thanksgiving duck last week. This week I used my new contraption to cook a whole chicken. It was even easier, with equally impressive results. Now, it’s official: I’m in love.
Roasting a whole five-pound chicken for two people makes enough meat for several meals. (I bought an organic, free-range young chicken from Safeway for $15. Non-organic cost about half that.) We had chicken breasts with roasted beats and carrots the first night, then chicken sandwiches the next day.
By day three, it was time for soup. Having torn all the meat from the bones, I shredded it into uneven threads and set it aside. I simmered the carcass in water, with some hunks of carrot, celery and onion and a couple bay leaves until the water was cloudy, then strained it—producing enough stock for a large pot of soup. This soup is always delicious, but the homemade stock made a noticeable difference, creating acaldo de pollo true to its Mexican roots.
If it stays this chilly for long, this rough recipe may become a weekly event in the Stelloh-Moon house.
Freda’s Mexican Chicken Soup
Chicken stock – homemade, if possible.
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
½ medium onion, halved and then thin-sliced
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
2 small jalapeños, deseeded, deveined and diced
2 ½ cups shredded roasted chicken
Pico de gallo (onion, tomato, jalapeño and cilantro) and avocado for garnish
Spices and seasoning, all to taste.
- Red pepper flakes
- Garlic (2 or 3 cloves)
- Two or three bay leaves
- Bragg Liquid Aminos – a few splashes
- Salt and pepper
1) Heat stock over medium heat. Add all seasonings to taste. I add a bit of each, and then more to my liking – sometimes more heat (more red pepper, garlic, pepper and jalapeño), sometimes less. Just add a bit at a time until the heat is right. Oregano, tarragon and Bragg are all optional, but add depth.
2) Add celery, carrots, onion and jalapeño. Pieces of carrot and celery should be about the same size. Simmer until carrots are tender.
3) When veggies are tender, add garbanzo beans and shredded chicken. Cook another 10 minutes or so, just long enough to absorb the stock’s flavor.
4) Serve with pico de gallo and chunks of avocado.