Dios mio…this Mexican chicken noodle soup is muy buena. Made in 30 minutes flat with mostly canned or easily obtained and stored ingredients that you might have leftover and generally around the galley already, it will be very good. I have made it at least a dozen times that way, going back to the recipe over and over because it’s easy and good. But this time we made a few enhancements — the biggest, using a smoked chicken — that put it over the top. Either way, give it a try.
To start, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in your favorite soup pot. Take 8 ounces of pasta like spaghetti, vermicelli or linguini, break in 2-3 pieces (2 for thinner pastas…here I broke thicker linguini into 3 segments per piece) and toast in the hot oil, stirring fairly constantly, for about 5 minutes. You will see the noodles begin to brown in spots…continue toasting and stirring without letting them burn until you get them as uniformly browned as you can.
For reference, here’s the end result next to some uncooked — this toasting brings out the nutty wheat flavor and really improves the end result. Remove the noodles from the pot to a paper towel lined plate, bowl, or colander to drain.
Heat another tablespoon of oil and add one diced onion, stirring for about 5 minutes until it begins to soften.
Add two cans of Rotel-style tomatoes (the smaller cans with green chiles…whatever level of heat you like) with their juice, and 2-3 chopped chipotles in adobo (check out our Sweet and Smokey Slaw recipe for a way to use up more from the can) and stir to combine.
Add 8 cups (2 quarts) low-salt chicken broth and the toasted pasta. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.
Stir in about 3 cups of cooked, shredded chicken. Here is where you have a lot of options for ease vs. deliciousness. As mentioned above, we used the meat off a chicken that we had cooked in our backyard smoker for 4 hours the day before — I even boiled the carcass to make the 2 quarts of broth — and the results were fantastic. I’ve made it in the past with everything from the least flavorful, poached, boneless-skinless breasts to the far-better but major grocery store-dependent rotisserie chicken, and it’s still way above average. So whatever leftover chicken you have will do, but…if you find yourself cruising in the tropics, anchor off an island, stroll into a tiny village, and there’s a guy with nothing but a grill pit and a wooden stand selling whole, grilled chickens,* pull out this recipe and ay caramba!
*This is not ridiculous…frequently that and a stand selling a few local fruits and vegetables is about all you can find in such places…and it is wonderful.
Give the whole thing about 3-5 minutes to simmer, just to heat the chicken through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, bearing in mind that if your chicken was seasoned you might need less of both than you are accustomed to for a pot of soup…taste it as you add.
Serve with cilantro leaves, shredded monterey jack cheese, and if you’re living right, diced avocado. This makes a great meal on an early spring or late fall day when there’s a nip in the air, but you don’t want to let go of summer or its promise. Buen provecho!