Chicken, chile and tomatillo soup
A warming winter soup
I contemplated this recipe for a few weeks before I actually started developing it. My plan was to make a robust, flavorful chicken chile, packed full of roasted peppers, chiles, and tomatillos. I wanted a little smoke and a little heat, but not so much heat that the flavors were lost in the fire. But sometimes cooking has a mind of its own, and what I wound up with was a hearty soup and not a chile. Things took a turn when I decided I wanted to dirty only one pot, and I added a lot of chicken stock to the sauteed onions so I could poach the chicken in the same pot. I knew as I was adding the stock that I would no longer have chile. Let's say I just went with the flow. That is the fun of cooking something new. It was a good improvisation. I knew I got it right when my husband's poker buddies went back for seconds and thirds. I just love that!
It takes some time and a little love, but it is worth it
I'm not going to lie, this soup takes a couple hours to make because you have to blacken all the vegetables. To maximize your effort, make a double batch and freeze the leftovers. There is nothing nicer than being able to pull a frozen package of homemade soup from the freezer. It almost feels like someone cooked for you.
The directions for this recipe involves making everything from scratch. Which is great when you have the time. But sometimes we don't. So don't sweat it and take some short cuts. Substitute the following ingredients when you need to save time:
- Jarred roasted peppers for fresh peppers.
- Canned tomatillos for fresh. An 11-ounce can is roughly equivalent to 1 pound of fresh tomatillos.
- Frozen corn can be substituted for fresh. One cup of frozen corn roughly equals 2 fresh ears.
- You can substitute store-bought shredded roast chicken for the boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the recipe.
- See my post on how to roast a pepper.
- Use a food processor to chop your garlic and onions.
- To bring out out the flavor of your spices, toast whole seeds and grind them in a molcajete or mortar and pestle. If you are short on time, use ground spices.
- See my post on how to handle raw chicken; you may be surprised that the safest way is also the easiest.
- I used a little adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles to add smokiness to the soup. If you like more heat, you could also add a minced chipotle chile or two.
- I am a big fan of Pomi brand tomatoes. They are additive free and come in a BPA-free carton.
- I cooked the black beans the day before and undercooked them just a bit, because I didn't want them to mush up in the soup. You can use canned beans, but they will be a little mushier.
- You prepare the ingredients for this soup as you go, letting the first ingredients simmer while you prepare the next ingredients. Once the chicken is cooked and shredded you do not want to bring the soup back to a boil or your chicken will be tough.
- 2 red peppers
- 10 tomatillos ( about 1.5 pounds), husked and rinsed
- 3 poblano peppers
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers
- 3 T olive oil, divided
- 3 ears white corn, husked
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes (preferably Pomi brand which comes in a box)
- 2 T ground cumin
- 1 t ground coriander
- ½ t Spanish smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
- 1 T chili powder
- 1 t ancho chile powder
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2.5 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
- 2 t dried oregano
- 3 cups cooked black beans
- 1½ T adobo sauce from a jar of chipotle chiles
- 2 t salt
- ¾ cup cream
- 1 handful cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup grated Mexican cheese blend
- 1 avocado, diced (optional)
- 2 limes, cut in wedges
- 2 cups tortilla chips
- Heat oven to broil. Seed and slice red bell peppers so that each slice is flat. Put a splash of olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan and wipe with a paper towel to oil the bottom of the pan. Spread cut red peppers, whole tomatillos, whole poblano chilis, and whole jalapeños over the pan. Broil to blacken the skins of all the vegetables, turning to blacken on all sides. Watch carefully. It will take 15 to 20 minutes. As the vegetables blacken, remove and put in a metal bowl and cover with foil or plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to steam. Reserve any liquids that are left in the roasting pan and in the bowl.
- Put the corn in the roasting pan and briefly roast the cobs under the broiler, turning as they darken. Set aside to cool.
- Put garlic in a food processor and whirl until finely minced. Add onion and pulse to coarsely chop. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large soup pot. Add garlic and onions and saute over medium heat for 15 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelize.
- Add tomatoes, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and chili powder and ancho chile powder to the onion and garlic mix. Cook another 2 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, thighs and oregano to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. Reserve all liquids.
- Return to the roasted vegetables. Using your fingers, slip peels off the red peppers, poblano and jalapeño peppers, remove and discard the seeds. There is no need to peel the roasted peel from the tomatillos. Chop the peppers into ¾" squares. Chop the tomatillos, removing and discarding the hard core. Add the chopped blackened peppers, tomatillos, the beans and any reserved liquid from the tomatillo roasting pan to the soup pot.
- When the chicken has cooled, shred it and add it to the soup pot along with any reserved juices. Cut the corn from the husks and add to the soup pot.
- Season with salt and pepper and adobo sauce. Turn heat off and stir in cream. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with lime squeezes, cilantro, grated cheese and tortilla chips.
THIS SERVES WELL WITH