Tuesday, December 27, 2011

recipes: a mexican chicken noodle soup

(photo: mine)
After a week of Christmas food feasting, we felt like we wanted something different so I decided to try another recipe from Zarela's Veracruz: Caldo de Pollo con Fideos (or Santa Maria's Chicken Soup with Noodles). According to Zarela, this is a version of a soup she grew up with in northern Mexico—and it is indeed, as she puts it, very "soothing." I wish I had a gallon of this soup in reserve for those days I seek comfort food.

I followed the original recipe pretty closely (here is a version almost exactly like the one in the book, with only the jalapenos not in the original recipe), tweaking it only where I couldn't find the right ingredients:
1 4 to 4½ pound chicken, cut into sections (I purchased a pre-cut chicken; the recipe calls for a quartered 3 ½ to 4 pound chicken)  
3 small white onions, 1 ½ unpeeled (recipe calls for 2 onions, 1 unpeeled) 
9 garlic cloves, 4 unpeeled (recipe calls for 6 cloves, 2 unpeeled) 
2-3 teaspoons salt (recipe calls for 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons) 
12 black peppercorns 
15 mint springs (1 small bunch) 
12 cups water (recipe calls for 7-8 cups)
3 dried Anaheim chilies, stemmed and seeded (the recipe calls for ancho chilies, but I couldn't find those at my grocery store) 
¼ cup olive oil 
8 ounces nested angel hair noodles (recipe calls for fideos or fedelini noodles, which are somewhere between the size of spaghetti and vermicelli, suggesting vermicelli if the other two versions are not available; however, I liked the idea of nested noodles, so I went with what I could find)
I placed the pre-cut chicken pieces into a large stockpot and added the unpeeled onions, unpeeled garlic, peppercorns, 3 mint sprigs and about 1 ½ teaspoons salt and covered the combination with enough water to cover by 2 inches (which ended up being 12 cups). I brought the pot to a boil and then reduced the heat to a gentle rolling boil, partially covered the pot and cooked for about 30 minutes. Then I turned off the heat and let the chicken cool in the stock.

dried Anaheim chilies
After about 10 minutes, I pulled the chicken pieces out of the pot and let cool a bit more on a cutting board. In the meantime, I poured the stock through a strainer into a large bowl, pushing the onions and garlic cloves against the strainer to squeeze every last drop of flavor into the stock, and then discarded the solids that were left. I poured two cups of the stock into a small bowl, added the Anaheim chilies, and let them sit for 20 minutes.

While the chilies soaked, I peeled off and discarded the skin of the chicken pieces and used tongs to pull the meat off the bones in bite size pieces. When the chilies were done soaking, I poured the liquid and chilies into a blender with the rest of the rest of the onions and garlic (both peeled and roughly chopped) and pureed, setting aside the mixture.

I cleaned out the pot, poured in and heated the oil over medium high heat and added the angel hair nests, browning lightly on both sides. (If using vermicelli, the recipe suggests stir-frying it until lightly brown). Once browned, I lifted the nests out of the pot and onto paper towels to drain.

I then poured the remaining oil out of the pot (leaving a thin layer on the bottom of the pot), poured in the chili mixture and brought to a boil. I then immediately reduced to a low heat and cooked the mixture for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. In the meantime, I chopped the rest of the mint and set aside.

After the chili mixture was heated, I added the chicken, angel hair nests and about five cups of the remaining stock. I brought the soup to a boil and cooked over a low heat for a couple of minutes until the angel hair was done. I added the chopped mint and served into bowls.

While the original recipe says it makes about 6-8 servings as a first course, my version yielded about 10 servings (about 1 ½ cups per bowl). Oddly, this is a soup where the taste grows—the fifth, sixth and seventh spoonful are somehow more flavorful than the first few. By the time I was at the bottom of the first bowl, I marveled at the smoothness and texture of the tastes. Needless to say, I had another bowl.

As a note, next time I believe I will add more Anaheim chilies if I still can’t find the ancho. As I hadn’t had much experience cooking with Mexican chilies, I was concerned with the heat that could be generated from adding too much; now that I know how the chilies taste, I feel confident adding more.

No comments:

Post a Comment