Caldo de Pollo, or Hearty Chicken Soup
Frost on the windows leaves a new masterpiece every night, and the chilly weather makes me want to eat. Poultry sounds good, but I have no specific plan! The words Brothy and Hearty come to mind.
This process of pondering what to cook raises the question “How is a dish created?“. For me there are often three elements:
1) A memory or an idea
2) Assessment of my ingredient availability
Then taste as I go.
Sometimes there is no memory and no research, only what is in my refrigerator…but that is another story!
The inspiration for this meal comes from distant remembrances of Mexico, the ingredients I can find in December in a small town, and a little help from Rick Bayless and Mexico One Plate at a Time.
The smells and tastes of the past are often the magic pool from which my cooking springs. Not surprising. Information from the olfactory system travels to both the limbic system and the cortex, linking the primitive (memory, behavior and emotion) to the conscious thought of the cortex. Taste and smell are interconnected, so suffice it to say that foods from our past are quite powerful to us and who we are.
I have a memory of Chicken Broth with Lime and Cilantro.
I’m sure there was more to the dish, but those three are going to be my building block ingredients. They are what I want to recreate, and everything else plays a supportive role. I then look for complementary flavors and commonly known associates (potatoes, pintos, onion, chiles, oregano) that I could lay mine hands on.
It may be a small town, but we have amazing local potatoes!
Dissect a memory into parts, then try and identify the ingredients to piece it back together. It may be difficult to reproduce the saltiness of ocean air on your skin, but flavors are more portable than ambiance!
Let your Taste Souvenirs act as a guide. They are the glyphs on the atlas of memories. For me… it was lime. Lime was the main byway, and Chicken Stock was the terrain, the country. The enchanting hacienda where we stayed was Cilantro.
And then you go from there…these little pictures guiding us to be creative and bring bits of ourselves to the surface. We plunge into the depths, resurfacing with a few gemstones, images, and maps to explore the territories of inspiration in the kitchen.
Grilling the chicken broadens the depth of rustic flavor.
I made stock but also used frozen chicken stock from another roasting day.
In my opinion, every ingredient in this soup is optional except for the lime, chicken broth and cilantro!
Caldo de Pollo
Prep Time: 30-60 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes
Grill, or roast, then bone (or use leftover poultry):
4 Chicken Thighs
Simmer the bones and make stock if you have time.
Combine in a soup pot:
4 Chicken Thighs, cooked and chopped
2 cups Chicken Stock
2 – 3 cups Water
1 medium Onion (white, if possible), diced
1 small Carrot, diced
1 1/2 cups Potatoes (not russets), diced
1 cup Pinto Beans, cooked
1/2 – 1 Dried Ancho Chile, seeded and chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 – 3 Bay Leaves
1/2 tsp Oregano or Marjoram
Dash of Cloves, ground
3/4 tsp Dried Mint, or 1 Tbsp fresh
Salt to Taste—the amount will depend on if the beans are salted or not
Black Pepper to Taste
Simmer approximately 30 minutes. The potatoes should be cooked, but not mushy.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve with PILES and PILES of:
Fresh Limes wedges
May you have fun both exploring your favorites from the past, and creating new memories for future use!
I don’t know the name of the potter who made this bowl, but they used to work out of the rural studio of Warren MacKenzie near Stillwater, MN.