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April 18th, 2010:

Pure Poultry: Hot Soup for a Chilly Evening

chicken chili soup with fresh lime

PeppersI can’t believe how long it’s been since I had a chance to cook for and post to this blog. Things have been a little hectic. And it’s going to be all the more challenging to meet my goal of cooking from every book by the end of June, but I’m going to try. This week will still be busy for me, but next week I’ll be on vacation and I ought to be able to do extra cooking and writing to make up CookingPepperssome ground.

In the meantime, I needed to find something I could make for tonight’s dinner that wouldn’t be too complex. I leafed through Pure Poultry; it’s another cookbook from the cookbook club I used to belong to, and features the same attractive photography and layout as the others they publish. I flipped past familiar PeppersDrainedkinds of recipes — roast chicken, chicken cacciatore, oven-fried chicken — but then turned a page and found a beautiful photo of a rich-looking red soup flecked with bits of pepper and onion. Chicken chili soup with fresh lime looked perfect for a chilly spring evening.

I started by doing my prep, but I should have read the recipe through once more and divided PureeingVegs3up my work. The first instruction is to heat some oil in a skillet, briefly fry a number of diced jalapeno peppers, and then cover the diced peppers with water and set them aside for half an hour. I could have chopped the peppers first and cooked them, then moved along with the rest of the chopping while they soaked. So dinner was a little later than I’d intended.
Once the peppers have soaked for half an hour, the recipe says to drain them and reserve the water. It doesn’t actually say what to do with the reserved water; after some consideration I decided to add it to the soup when the time came. In the meantime, I pureed the peppers with some diced onion, garlic and tomato. Then I heated some oil in a large pot and SimmeringSoupcooked the pepper mixture for about 10 minutes, then added chicken broth (and the pepper water) and let the mixture simmer for half an hour.

I also sliced some boneless, skinless chicken breast and sauteed it until the pieces were fully cooked and nicely browned. I set this aside. And I mixed a few tablespoons of cornmeal with half LastIngredients2a cup of water. When the timer for the broth went off, I stirred in the cornmeal slurry, some minced cilantro, some lime zest and some lime juice.

I also stirred in the chicken, but I must note: The recipe never specifically says to add the chicken to the soup. I know it’s supposed to go in, partly because it’s in the name of the recipe, FinalSoup2partly because the photo that accompanies it shows chicken in the soup. I expect that sort of sloppiness from a pamphlet, but not from an elaborately designed and produced cookbook. Of course, for an inexperienced cook, adding the chicken is a no-risk option. But the omission of the details about what to do with the pepper-soaking water is more serious; if I’d been wrong, SoupBowlthe soup could have been too hot to bear.

Fortunately, it wasn’t. The soup was peppy and flavorful, but not aggressively spicy; the heat of the jalapenos balanced nicely with the bright tartness of the lime juice and the pungency of the cilantro. The soup was a welcome warming dish after a chilly spring afternoon. I made spinach and black bean quesadillas to go with it — sort of a Mexican-themed soup and sandwich supper.

Verdict: Success. This one definitely goes into the rotation.