Chicken Jalapeno Soup

Welcome to National Soup Month!  In the annals of made-up, commercially-exploitable holidays, this one’s pretty obvious.  It’s cold, you’re plum tuckered out with the challenge of packing a single buffet plate from a choice of twenty holiday dishes on offer, and maybe you’ve got a resolution to eat in a mildly more healthful manner.  Something about a single, cradle-able bowl of warm, delicious, complete soup — which, even if it has pint of heavy cream in it, is also rife with vegetables and lean chicken — is a comfort you can happily indulge for an entire month.  We’ll get back to the multi-dish and multi-course in February.

Chicken Jalapeno Soup

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4-6 poblano peppers, depending on size
4-6 jalapeno peppers, depending on size and heat tolerance
1 large white onion
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup chopped leeks (white and light-green parts only)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped carrots
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
1-1/4 cups sherry
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pint heavy cream
1 corn tortilla per person

To start, char your peppers and onion.  It was cold and rainy, so doing this on the transome grill was wholly unappetizing; luckily Pirate Caroline’s galley stove has a broiler!  Pop them on a baking sheet (line it with foil if you don’t want to wash) and under the broiler until skins start to shrivel and blacken in spots.  Turn them to blacken the other side.  Keep an eye on this process — it happens quickly, but you will smell it!

While the peppers are broiling, put the chicken breasts into a pot of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Drain and let them cool.

Peel as much of the papery skin off the peppers as you can, then remove tops and seeds.

Roll up your sleeves and get out your hand-cranked food processor!  Grind up the peppers and onion into as fine a mixture as you have energy for.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces.

Make your mirepoix.  Pirate Caroline had never heard this term, which made me feel unprecedentedly sophisticated and French for a split second.  Chop the leeks, celery, carrot and garlic and saute slowly over medium-low heat in a good 1/2 cup of oil until they begin to soften.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir through thoroughly, then add the cumin seeds, sherry and broth and stir well until all clumps of flour disappear.  Bring this back to a low boil, then reduce heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the pepper puree and simmer for another ten minutes.  Then stir in the shredded chicken and the cream and heat thoroughly without boiling.

To serve, slice corn tortillas into 1/4″ thick strips and fry quickly, stirring and tossing, in a bit of vegetable oil; remove to a paper towel to drain and salt liberally.  These will crisp up and provide a nice crunch on top of the soup.  We used blue corn tortillas for contrast — it’s one of the frustrations (for food bloggers) that some of the most delicious soups are just … not photogenic.  Big bowls of pale, low-structure liquid.  Did I mention delicious though?  Enjoy!



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