Soup. Sometimes all we need is a bowl to suddenly feel that everything is right in the universe.
It began completely unplanned.
I buy a whole chicken at the market, when I get home I butcher it into ten pieces. Some pieces get frozen, others stored in the refrigerator to use in a day or two. And because I love my kitties (in other words, my cats are spoiled), I boil a piece for them straightaway. As I prepared the chicken I thought about saving myself sometime for tomorrow’s dinner, we will be having tacos, so I place a couple more pieces of chicken into the pot.
The steam rises from the pot and water begins to bubble. A sensory memory is triggered in me. I want caldo de pollo. Maybe it’s the slight chill in the air tonight that causes the reaction. I don’t know. I want caldo de pollo.
Memories surge through me of the countless bowls of caldo (both chicken and beef) I ate at my mother’s kitchen table during childhood years both in Mexico and America. I’ve always loved a big bowl of soup.
I want caldo de pollo.
Rummaging through the vegetable drawer I gather what I find. Luckily I have everything I need to get a good broth going.
By now the chicken is at a roaring boil, the dark foam rises to the top, so I turn off the heat and place the colander in the kitchen sink. I drain the boiling chicken then I throughly rinse it. (This is an important step in order to get a clear broth.) Now the pot gets a thorough rinse — but no soap is used. The rinsed chicken gets placed back into the pot, enough water to cover it is poured in, then it is placed back onto the stove. The pot is covered, the heat is at medium and I allow the chicken to cook through. I turn off the heat and remove all of the chicken without discarding the liquid. The meat falls off the bones so easily. The kitties have their portion separated and ours is placed back into the pot.
Now I use my strength to pull away the thick husks and silk off of the fresh, juicy ears of corn. Both are cut into four pieces and placed in the pot with the chicken. I peel the skin off of the chayote, slice it in half, remove the seed, then cut into bite-size pieces and place in the pot. The zucchini stem gets chopped off, it is sliced and diced into small pieces then placed in the pot. The carrot is peeled, sliced into even-sized pieces, and placed in the pot. The celery is cut up and I do leave the leafs attached, they too are placed in the pot. The onion skin is peeled off and it is cut into quarters before being placed in the pot. Garlic gloves are peeled, smashed, roughly chopped, and in they to into the pot. A couple of bay leaves and fifteen whole peppercorns are added to the pot before enough water to cover all of the ingredients is poured in. The heat is turned to medium-low, the pot covered, and I wait for it to begin to simmer.
Not long after the enticing scents begin to waft through the kitchen then all throughout the house. My husband comes to inquire about the scent that is making his stomach want a taste. This is caldo de pollo.
The ingredients are so humble, the preparation process so simple — but the scents and taste, they are unimaginably satisfying to all of the senses.
Sometimes all we need is a bowl to suddenly feel that everything is right in the universe.
- one small chicken cut into pieces (remove the skin)
- water for boiling
- two ears of corn, husk and silk removed (I used white corn but feel free to use other varieties)
- two chayotes, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces
- one very large zucchini, stem removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- one very large carrot, peeled and sliced into even-sized pieces
- two stalks of celery with the leaves attached, sliced into even-sized pieces
- one small white onion, peeled and quartered
- six cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly minced
- two bay leaves
- fifteen whole peppercorns
- one and a half teaspoons of fine sea salt, adjust to taste
- extra water if needed
- Place the skinless chicken into a large pot and pour in enough water to cover the chicken. Cover and bring to a boil. Once it boils and the foamy stuff comes up, drain, and thoroughly rinse both the chicken and the pot. Place the chicken back into the pot, pour in plenty of water, and bring to a boil then allow the chicken to cook through. Once the chicken is falling off the bones, turn the heat off and remove the chicken -- but reserve the broth. Allow the chicken to cool enough to handle before pulling the meat off the bones. Place the boiled chicken back into the broth and set aside.
- Prepare all of the vegetables: Cut the each ear of corn into four pieces and place into the pot along with the remaining vegetables, bay leaves, salt, and pepper corns. You'll now need to add more water into the pot. Pour in enough so that the vegetables and chicken are completely covered. Place the lid on the pot, turn the heat to medium-low, simmer until all of the vegetables have softened and cooked through. Taste the soup -- careful not to burn yourself! Add more salt if needed.
- Serve alongside warm corn tortillas, slices of fresh limes. I love also to add several drops of hot sauce, like Cholula. Enjoy!
Check out the soup archives for international soup and stew recipes.