I love this time of year when my garden decides what I am going to make for dinner. I planted about 8 varieties of hot peppers sort of late in the season (about a month after everyone else!) and wasn’t very optimistic about what I would end up with. My gardening approach goes something like “plant it and cross your finger” and hopefully that will yield me an abundance. It seems to work out well enough, and I figure eating a less than perfect tomato from my garden has to taste a zillion times better than some random sort bought thing?
As I said, the peppers were planted late. I also stuck them in a weird spot that technically isn’t even in my garden. I’m definitely short on a nice swath of ground in which to plant a real honest-to-goodness vegetable garden, and my plants are stuck here and there, willy-nilly, wherever there is room. There are pots of tomatoes going down the back steps, herbs planted between bushes and flowers, and the peppers I speak of are planted behind the back fence where my man Dave usually parks his big van! The new rule was for him not to park there as it would block the only light that hits that particular spot for a few hours in the morning. It seems to have worked! My pepper plants are awash in peppers and I love finding new ways of using them up. When I take the trouble to grow something I am loath to let even a single piece of produce go to waste.
The soup that I made last night was inspired by two things; the desire to experiment with some of my lovely peppers, and a longing from my man Dave. A couple of days ago he was reminiscing about a wonderful soup we used to order from a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant where we used to live, ( no doubt inspired by the crop of peppers he passed each day on his way out the door). He talked about how the thin broth had a tang, and how it was filled with succulent chicken, and bobbed with slices of jalapeno peppers, and, when you dug your spoon down deep, it resurfaced with a smattering of white rice. I just had to make my own version of this!
The key to my successful execution of this amazing soup was to boil the chicken, which in turn created it’s own stock, and, the addition of 3 complimentary garnishes; homemade fried tortilla stripes, sliced avocado and tomatillo salsa. It is by far my new most favorite soup in all the world. It is great in the summer because of the tang of lime juice and the light brothy stock, but would be equally welcomed in the winter, for the comforting qualities of the chicken and rice.
Of course, if you don’t have the wherewithal to make the tortilla stripes (I only had them because I had made tacos a few weeks earlier, and froze some of the corn tortilla I made for just such a use; I have always wanted to fry my own tortilla strips!), just use store-bought. Don’t leave them out as they add a great crunch to the dish. The soup itself is easy to make and the tomatillo salsa is only difficult if it is hard to find tomatillos. What is a tomatillo? It is sometimes called a mexican or spanish tomato. It is green, and is covered by a thin papery husk. When you remove the husk the skin of the fruit is sticky. This is because it contains a lot of pectin (which is also why it is good for jelly making). At this time of the year (summer), they are not hard to find at fruit and vegetable stands, but they are common enough now and can be found in many good supermarkets. Make the effort to find them if you want to try this soup.
Dinner was made even more fabulous last night because the Young Baker made dessert (look for post in the near future), and, some very special friends were good enough to join us for the evening (after all, I had to show off my soup!)
For Soup; You will need: 1 4lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin on, (you can find this already cut up in the supermarket or ask your butcher to do it), 1 1/2 tsp sea salt, several grinds of black pepper, 6 scallions, sliced, including green parts, 2 Anaheim peppers (skinny green peppers), sliced, 3 jalapeno peppers, sliced, including seeds and rib parts (medium heat; check by tasting when you cut open), 2 long skinny red peppers, sliced, (or, 1 red pepper, diced), 2 medium carrots, sliced, 1 cup white rice, throughly rinsed in cold water, juice of 2 limes, 1 good quality veggie or chicken bouillon cube, 4 quarts water (about 3,800 mL).
For Tomatillo Salsa; You will need: 5 or 6 tomatillos, left whole, 10 fresh mint leaves, 1 med/lrg yellow onion, quartered, 2 jalapeno peppers, left whole, 3 cloves garlic, left whole, skin removed, 1 tsp sugar (if needed).
For home-made Tortilla Stripes: Please type corn tortilla in search box to the right of my blog. Prepare as instructed. Then, go to recipe for further instructions.
For Avocado Garnish; You will need: 2 ripe Haas avocados, quartered and sliced lengthways.
For Lime Garnish; You will need : 1 or 2 limes cut into wedges.
1 – Put the chicken in a big soup pot (6-8 qt), along with the salt and several grinds of black pepper, and cover completely with the water (about 4 qts). Bring to a boil on the stove-top. When it starts to boil, skim the top of any scum forming, until you get as much as you can. Keep at a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
2 – While chicken is cooking, prep all vegetables. After 30 minutes, add the vegetables, rice, and the bouillon cube to the pot and bring everything back to a simmer, (do not add lime juice at this time). When it comes to a simmer, continue to cook for another 25 minutes.
3 – Turn pot off after allotted time and remove chicken to cool on a board. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and all of the meat from the bone. Put the chicken back into the pot, along with the lime juice. If you want a thinner consistency feel free to add another cup or two (or three) of water. It will not make a difference to the flavor. Taste for further seasoning. *If you have a long wait for dinner, only reheat right before it is time to serve.
Make Tomatillo salsa
1 – Put all the ingredients for the salsa, except for the mint leaves and sugar, into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
2 – Remove from pot with slotted spoon, and transfer to a food processor. Add the lime leaves and sugar and blend until smooth.
3 – Remove to a bowl until ready to serve
Corn tortilla stripes
1 – Prepare the corn tortilla according to instructions. When they are round and are dry cooked, leave them to cool. Figure a half tortilla round per person. When cool enough to handle, cut into even stripes. Put pan on high heat and add enough vegetable oil to pan to make a 1/4″ in depth. When oil is very hot add the stripes and fry for about 2 minutes, tossing about to cook evenly.
2 – Remove to drain on paper towels and then transfer to a plate until ready to serve.
To serve soup; Ladle soup into bottom of shallow soup bowls and add a big tablespoon of tomatillo salsa, 1 quarter of an avocado (sliced), about 6 tortilla stripes, and a lime wedge.
It only looks amazing, because it was!