I've made this soup probably forty times, and each and every time I'm blown away by how elegant and simple it is. It's incredibly creamy without being fatty at all. It's rich and decadent, hearty and nourishing, yet there's really nothing in it but cauliflower and onion. It takes a master chef to do something this well, this simply. Paul Bertolli was the chef at Chez Panisse for a good long while, the groundbreaking restaurant Alice Waters started in Berkeley. Because of Chez Panisse I cook the way I do, and we have greenmarkets like we do, and an emphasis on local sustainable food like we do. I will tell you that it does require some pretty heavy salting so if it seems a little flat, that's what you're missing. Truffle oil isn't out of line here either, and I like a sprig of time. I would definitely recommend this for a dinner party.
I wrote this recipe out for a friend of mine on March 3, 2015. The story stays the same, the healing properties stay the same, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did and I'll continue to. I don't drink any more but a big part of what I try to do is get people to enjoy cooking as much as possible, and wine helps most people relax during cooking.
REMEMBER: Food is medicine. Bone broth has considerable health benefits so even if you're the staunchest vegan - have an open mind.
This is by no means a complicated, highbrow recipe. I didn’t learn it from an old Oaxacan lady with leathery hands when I lived in Mexico. I have no memories of standing on a milk crate watching my mom or any other family member concocting this in a warm kitchen when I had the flu or anything like that. It will however, be in my recipe box until the end of my days, and by then I will hopefully have passed it down to someone who has rich memories of eating it like I do. If I don’t - you’re the carrier now! Make this soup for lots of people! It has all the components of an heirloom recipe. Simple, nourishing, healing, and it just has LOVE in it, you know what I mean? Also, no dishes.
The first time I made this, I had been a staunch vegan for about 5 years. Brian was sick, in withdrawal actually, and my nerves were shot. Sleep and eating had been so far on the back burner and both of us wanted our Moms. We were in a tough spot, pretty close to rock bottom and we had no money and no food in the house . I knew he needed something more substantial than lentils and veggie broth, and I was feeling really vegan guilty about cooking meat - but you know, real love always wins. I ran into three people I teach yoga to who read my vegan blog as I staggered around the supermarket clutching a chicken with a puffy red tearstained face (which could easily be confused with five-or-six-days-on-gin face). I slipped in the snow on my way back, ripped my jeans and was soaked, took the bus in the wrong direction - it was just a BAD day over all. I got home and started cooking and I swear, it was like a movie. The smells from the kitchen woke Brian up and he looked alive for the first time in about a week, the house warmed up and it started snowing. It smelled SO good. I was surprised that I craved it. We devoured it huddled together on the couch, covered in blankets and I swear - it HEALED us. Things skyrocketed after that - now we’re getting married.
This recipe has become a stand-by for me. Every flu, every cold day, every time you wake up with The Fear after a long night out - it fixes everything. A true cure-all. Every recipe I’ve ever made in my life has normally involved some tweaking to the original. Not this one. It’s exactly the same as I made it the first time and I hope you enjoy it for the rest of your life!
I love love. I wish I could be there with you guys on your big day, but since I can’t, I’ll be thinking of you. I hope every time you eat this soup, it’s memorable, and a sweet memory too. That’s how it is for me.
**a note on Mexican white corn a.k.a. mote blanco, hominy, or maize. It’s not sweet at all., it’s basically a grain. I don’t know if you guys will have that down there, so if not you can substitute rice instead. Add a quarter cup of cooked rice to the each bowl of finished soup. If you add it to the whole thing it will absorb all the stock and then you’ll have a solid mass for leftovers the next day instead of soup. Add water when you reheat as the bones will congeal the broth (super healthy stuff).
MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP
You will need:
ONE BOTTLE OF WINE
One whole chicken (I get the free range ones and they’re considerably smaller. About the size of a mason jar is good)
Two Carrots, diced
Three ribs of Celery, diced
One large yellow onion, diced
Two tomatoes, quartered
Two cloves of garlic, minced
One jalapeño, sliced lengthwise (core and seed if you don’t like it hot. add an extra one if you do!)
Three limes (two for juice one for garnish)
One bunch of cilantro
One 16 oz can of Mexican corn , or make a batch of rice (or any other grain you’re keen on). drained.
Salt and Pepper
Avocado (optional, for garnish)
1.) Make sure you’re not drunk, pray for your fingers to be spared, and break down your chicken. Remove any guts that might be in it and put to the side (along with vegan guilt, if you ever tried that). Pat down the skin with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Salt and pepper both sides.
2.) Heat some oil in a pot (I use olive even though they say not to heat it past a blah blah whatever) and brown (brown, not beige) the chicken. Skin side down. This will take a while and the hard part is over so go get a glass of wine, it’s all easy from here on out. When you’ve gotten as much color on both sides as you can, remove the chicken and set aside.
3.) Same pot same heat, add the celery, onion, and carrot. Saute in whatever oil is left in the pan until the onions are translucent. If you have the neck, kidneys, or liver, you can add them here (just remember to remove them at the end). Put Selena on. Depending on how much wine you drink this could turn into dancing or crying. Pick your battle and commit to it fully.
4.) If you’re drinking white, deglaze the pan with a lash of white wine. Otherwise, water is fine. Get all the brown bits up. Add the chicken and cover with water.
5.) Add the jalapeño, tomato, garlic, and juice of two limes. Chop the stems off of your bunch of cilantro and add that in there too (tie them up so you don’t have to chase them later, or just leave the rubber band on, whatever)
6.) Now you really have free time. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer. If there’s a lot of foam you can skim it off. The kitchen is going to start smelling epic soon. This will go for about 45-50 minutes. Take advantage of this and curl up for a bit. Put eating pants on. You want to make sure there’s a lot of broth, so if it starts to reduce too much just keep adding water.
7.) When the chicken is starting to fall off the bone, add the corn if you have it and let simmer for another 10 minutes. If not, grab a couple bowls and add some rice to the bottom of them. Slice the avocado and check the seasoning.
8.) Ladle into bowls and garnish with avocado, cilantro, and a wedge of lime. Tortilla chips, cheese (although it's really not necessary), fresh tomato, jalapeno (!!!) and scallions are all apropo. Finish the wine. Get messy, save the wishbone. Enjoy the leftovers the next day.
I've been cooking since I was seven. Institute of Culinary Education grad and NYC trained chef. Food dork. Health nut. Bounty Hunter of beige foods. I don't think there needs to be a separation between food that's good and food that's good for you.