When I ended up with a cold a couple weeks ago, I had very little energy, a fridge full of forlorn, half-eaten rotisserie chickens, and a craving for spicy food. There are always a few roast chickens languishing in the fridge; most weeks, Tom takes full advantage of the Friday two for $10 deal on them at the local supermarket, eats the breast (at least most of it) and then leaves them in the fridge. I'm not too big into plain roast chicken, but I hate letting something like that go to waste (my generalized guilt about wasting food is multiplied when an animal died to become that food), so I am constantly trying to find ways to sneak this leftover chicken into things. In this case, spicy chicken soup provided the answer to all of these queries.
I used tortilla soup, a chile-spiked, chicken-based soup with origins across Mexico, as a jumping off point. I spent a while curled under a blanket with a box of tissues and the laptop reading many recipes for inspiration. This recipe might take a little while, but it's one where there's not a whole lot of active time, which means there's time to stop and take a nap between steps. You may not have all of the ingredients that I did (nor the plague of half-eaten chickens) so for many of the ingredients here, I provide a few alternatives.
In the end, what I came up with was good enough to eat for several more days without getting bored and to make again even when I wasn't sick.
Chile Chicken Soupgluten-free, dairy-free, optionally grain-free
- 2 half-eaten rotisserie chickens (You can use 1-2 lbs of fresh/frozen chicken and simmer in chicken stock instead of water)
- water to cover (2-3 qts)
- 2 tsp. light-flavored oil
- 2 small-medium onions
- 8 cloves garlic
- 6 Dried Anaheim chiles, toasted* (or about ¼c. paprika, see note about chiles)
- 2 chipotle chile (or 1-2 tsp. chipotle powder, scaled to taste, or ½-1 tsp. cayenne)
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2-3 bell peppers, fire-roasted (I used a combo of red bell and cubanelle)
- 1/2 can crushed tomatoes
- salt to taste
- handful cilantro
- 2 T masa harina made into a slurry with about 1/4 cup water, stirred in close to the end (optional, adds body)
- tortilla chips (if you want to be fancy, fry your own tortilla strips)
- more cilantro
- sour cream
- shredded jack, cheddar or queso blanco cheese
- chili sauce
some of the suggestions offered here. You can also elect to simply chop up your peppers and cook them with the onions and garlic, but roasting them brings out their sweetness and adds the depth that only light charring can bring.
Dice the onions, slice the garlic, cook in light-flavored oil in stock pot over med-low heat, stirring frequently until well-browned and tasty smelling. Add non-chile spices to onion/garlic and stir until fragrant. Take a handful of cilantro, cut (but keep!) the stems. Finely chop the stems and roughly chop the leaves, then add to the onions, garlic and spices, then return chicken + broth to pot.
If using whole chiles, toast them over the stove as well. Either grab them with tongs one at a time and wave them over the flame until they get fragrant and a little puffed or toss them in a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat until a similar effect is achieved. Tear them up, remove the stems and grind. I can only fit one or two in my grinder at a time, so it takes a few batches. I just dump them right into the pot as they come out.
Adjust the seasoning. I usually serve with some assortment of tortilla chips, fresh cilantro, avocado cubes (don't skip these!) and lime wedges. Other people reportedly like adding sour cream or shredded mild cheese. Regardless, let diners add their own flair. As much as the tortilla bits give the soup its name, it's pretty good without them, too, if you don't have them or aren't eating corn for whatever reason. I also like to put out some chili sauce, so that diners can adjust the spiciness to their liking.