The Hungary Buddha
I love making everyday dishes in other countries because what seems ordinary when viewed through our looking glass becomes so different given another country’s flavor palate. Plus, I love every day. It’s what life is really made of (#deepthoughts). Chicken soup is definitely one of my favorite dishes to reinvent because it’s healthy, comforting and usually very easy, no matter where on the globe you happen to land.
This one is no exception, but it does require making your own stock. I know, I know…sometimes you just want to use canned and that’s okay. Sometimes. In fact, I almost went that route this time. I stood in front of the boxed broth for, no joke, about 3 minutes weighing the pros and cons of doing so for this dish, but given the unique ingredients and methodology required for this particular stock, I decided to suck it up and just do it myself. It wasn’t even a meat stock. It was a veggie stock. Self, I said, take your lazy pants off.
Sopa de Lima is a specialty of the Yucatán given the plethora of limes on the peninsula and the magic, I think, is in the aforementioned stock. This stock is built on pan-roasted (you’ll see in the recipe below) onions and garlic, peppers, limes and spices, and once it’s all melded and happy and cooked through, it packs a spicy punch that will clear your sinuses and wake up your taste buds in a way that no other chicken soup does. It’s topped with a garnish of lime slices, queso fresca, cilantro and fried tortilla strips for some crunch. Chicken soup, redefined.
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Set large stock pot over medium to medium-low heat. Lay the onion and garlic head, cut-side down, in the pot. Cover and roast without turning until dark brown and quite soft, about 10 minutes.
When the onion and garlic are ready, add the water to the pot, along with spices, and jalapeno. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow, steady simmer. Juice and cut the ends off the limes and add the ends to the pot, along with the juice.
Cover the pot and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Strain the broth and add enough water to make sure you have the full 8 cups.
While the stock is rolling, prep the rest of the ingredients. Roast the Poblano by holding it over an open flame or close up under a preheated broiler until blackened and blistered all over, about 6 minutes. Put in a brown paper bag and seal, and let the steam work its magic for 10 minutes. After that time, using a paper towel, remove the blackened skin. Remove the seeds and coarsely chop. Chop the onion, tomatoes and cilantro and get ready.
Return the stock pot to medium-heat. Add the oil, onion, tomato and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and just beginning to color slightly. Add the broth and chicken breast. Cook 30 minutes, just until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken, cool slightly, then pull off and discard the skin. Pull the meat from the bones in large shreds; discard the bones. Taste and season the broth with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons.
Divide the soup into 4 large bowls, and garnish with cilantro, cheese and tortilla strips, as desired.