Friday, February 25, 2011

Smoky Chicken Soup

This is definitely a CWYG recipe. We apparently got the freezing weather a bit later than the rest of the country.  With threatening freezing weather and an even more threatening cold (3rd or 4th of the season!  YUK!) hot, spicy chicken soup sounded so good.  I knew I had leftover cooked chickpeas and frozen chicken breasts.  I always have individually frozen chipotle chiles (after opening a can, I freeze each one in a silicone mini-muffin cup, then remove and stash in a ziploc9 bag) in the freezer. I keep a container of organic Better Than Bouillon* in the fridge (which means instant chicken stock without the waste of multiple organic stock cartons in the trash). It all came together in a silky smooth and smoky base with corn, chicken, chickpeas and avocado.

One of the things I love about Mexican soups is that there are always a few extras to top it off.  I had half a head of cabbage and though I've never been a menudo fan, I know this is a traditional topping and it has a lot of the same base elements as this soup so that was my starting point.  Cilantro is a natural as well as a squeeze of lime.  Cotija would be the more authentic Mexican choice for a cheese to crumble over the top, but to keep my cheese drawer simple, I keep feta instead since I can use it for a multitude of applications.  It's a perfect sub for Cotija or Queso Fresco, both of which are non-melting fresh cheeses much like feta. Even without the toppings, with your pantry, fridge and freezer stocked you will have a nutrient packed, protein filled, healing meal in about a half hour.

Smoky Chicken Soup

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 bay leaf
2 whole garlic cloves
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chile (or 2 tsp smoked paprika)
1 can whole or diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans, black, white or pinto beans would work equally well)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, quartered
1/2 cup crumbled feta or shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded cabbage (optional)
1 cup chopped cilantro
tortilla chips or strips to serve, totally optional but a crunchy finish

In a large pot, place the chicken, bay leaf, garlic cloves, salt and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium high and boil for 5 minutes, removing any foam from the top with a slotted spoon or spider.  Cover turn off heat and let stand while you finish the soup.  Remove after 20 minutes or so and shred with forks or fingers (it will be hot, though).

In a large saucepan, saute onion and minced garlic in the oil until softened.  With a slotted spoon, remove the onions and garlic to a blender and add the tomatoes and chipotle or smoked paprika.  Blend until smooth.  Reheat the oil in the saucepan for a minute or two.  Add the pureed tomato/chile mixture and cook for a couple of minutes (covered or it will greatly spatter) until it becomes a bit thicker.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, add the chickpeas and corn then simmer for 5 minutes or until you have the chicken shredded.  Add the chicken and cook for a minute or two until heated through. 

In large shallow bowls, ladle the soup and top with a handful of tortilla chips, cabbage, cilantro, a lime wedge and a sprinkle of cheese.

*Try to find it locally, since online you have to buy 6 at a time and you have to pay exhorbitant shipping.  If you have a Costco available, you can buy a 16 oz container for $6.89 and it lasts for months.

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