Get transported to New Mexico or Mexico with this chicken soup.
Tomatillos add a wonderful tanginess to Mexican chicken soup.
This year, a non-traditional Thanksgiving. No turkey, no sweet potatoes, no yeast rolls. Instead, it’s Mexico and New Mexico, and the main course at our celebration: Carne Adovada. A robust and complex stew made with pork butt and several types of chilies, it’s delicious.
Before our feast, I got into the Mexican mood by making a traditional chicken soup, and it’s your recipe of the week. I served it at a dinner for four, and the results were delicious. The guests were happy, and asked for second servings, and I added it to The Brockhaus collection. It would be a perfect meal for the Friday (or weekend) after Thanksgiving.
I based my soup on a version made by the people at Milk Street, and added a few touches of my own. Here’s how you do it. But first, a quote from the woman I think about every time I make Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy: “The chile, it seems to me, is one of the few foods that has its own goddess.”
6 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
2 large white onions, 1 chopped, 1 peeled and quartered
1 large bunch cilantro (you’ll use the stems and the leaves)
3 whole dried ancho chilies, stemmed, seeded, and torn into large pieces
2.5 tablespoons toasted coriander seeds; 1.5 tablespoons ground coriander
2.5 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds; 2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 heads garlic
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
3 fresh poblano chilies
2.5 fresh jalapeños
1.5 pounds tomatillos, husked and quartered
2.5 tablespoons grape oil or other neutral oil
2.5 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
1 can (15 ounces) hominy, drained
Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for garnish
Mexican crema or sour cream
How To Make It
We’ll start with the liquid. Use a large pot, into which go the water, broth, the quartered onion, dried chilies, cilantro stems, the cumin and coriander seeds, and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Slice the top third from the garlic head and put the larger part (cloves intact) into the pot.
Cover and bring to boil, then simmer for 12 minutes. Add the chicken, return to a boil. Adjust heat to medium-low, then cover partially and cook for 35 minutes.
Next, the fresh chilies. I roasted mine directly over flame, but if you cook with electricity you can use a blowtorch or put them on a baking sheet under a broiler. You want to blacken and blister them, so turn them often. The process will take 12 to 15 minutes or so, and the flavors produced are wonderful. When blackened, put the peppers in a bowl and cover tightly. You’ll come back to them shortly.
Now it’s time to chop the cilantro leaves, and peel, stem, and seed the fresh chilies. Using your fingers, rub the skin of the chilies to remove it, then slice them and remove the seeds. Chop chilies roughly, and add to your food processor. (I used a Vitamix, which I recommend), along with the tomatillos. Pulse six to eight times; you want a coarse mixture.
Back to the stock: remove the chicken and garlic head and put them on a plate to cool. Strain the broth; you can throw away the solids. Wipe the pot clean, then add oil and heat over medium-high. Add the chopped onion and a teaspoon of salt, cooking until the onion pieces are soft and beginning to brown (about 10 minutes). Add the ground coriander, cumin, and oregano, then stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the tomatillo and chili mixture and cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth and bring to a boil.
Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces — get rid of the skin, the cartilage, and the bones — and squeeze the garlic cloves from the head; they will be soft and mellow, and add subtle flavor to the whole. Put the chicken and hominy in the pot and continue cooking for about five minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the chopped cilantro, and taste for salt.
I let my soup simmer for another 20 minutes, while I put sour cream, pepitas, avocado, lime quarters, and cilantro in bowls and heated some tortillas.
Serve the soup in a tureen at the table, and garnish as desired. It’s a bold and complex dish, and you’ll want more than one bowl. We paired a Pinot Noir with our soup, the Krafuss from Alois Lageder, and it was a great match.