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Soup and Novels: Persephone Descends

November 30, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving, post-exciting road adventures, post- foodie mania, post-anticipation, with heavy dark clouds and a sinus infection both gathering strength.  This dreary excuse for a Monday calls for two things, in this order:  Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, an intercontinental historical fiction page turner, and some homemade soup.  Since the current section of The Lacuna has taken me to Mexico D.F., I naturally settled on the obvious culinary cure for such a dark morning as this:  Sopa de Pollo.  A little back story before I impart this recipe to you.

Senior year of high school for over-achievers can be dangerous.  By that fall, my friends and I had pretty much expedited all the credits we needed to graduate, and so we were let out of school early.  By 1:15pm, to be exact.  Every single day of senior year.  With no supervision, and no jobs, apparently.  And in the habitual nature of adolescents, we returned every day, to the same stomping ground.   Our rec room of those teenage afternoons was a dumpy box of a Mexican restaurant, situated on top of a hill, a former Pizza Hut bought up by a group of guys from Jalisco as far as I could tell, called El Charro.  We promptly christened it The Charro and then, Our Charro Away from Home.

Why did we love it so?  Because nobody seemed to mind if we sat in the corner and chain smoked, ordering nothing but Cokes, munching endlessly on chips and salsa until the afternoon sun cut through our Camel Light cumulonimbus clouds, and the real customers began to tumble in.  If the place was really empty we could sometimes finagle a beer out of the nonchalant waitstaff, especially if we put in some time cheering for their futbol team and using all our Spanish curse words in a jovial stream of camaraderie.

El Charro’s menu presented standard Mexican fare, enchiladas dripping in mozzarella and mild green sauce, mountains of rice and beans  that had been steadily overcooked in what appeared to be salt juice.  But one item on their menu remains an unparalleled remedy to any ailment; it is goodness incarnate.  A bowl of salud big and colorful enough to smite a single germ that may have tried to hitch a ride to a diner’s nosehair.  It is as simple as it is delicious, and I have rarely tasted anything as comforting on a cold November day as Sopa de Pollo.  I have attempted to recreate El Charro’s version, to some degree of success.  This blog entry is proof of the Sopa’s magical powers:  I’m out of bed!

“El Charro’s”  Sopa de Pollo

  • roast 2 chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper in the oven on 400 degrees

In a large pot, combine:

  • a carton of chicken broth, plus 2 cups of water
  • 3/4 of a diced sweet onion
  • 1 diced tomato
  • some cilantro, chopped
  • some dashes of Tobasco
  • shake the salt for a minute, and then the pepper
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • juice from 2 limes
  • Throw 2 tortillas into the oven with the chicken, pre-cut into strips
  • At some point, chop an avocado
  • Shred the roasted chicken using the two forks method, and then throw it into the pot.
  • Keep sopa on medium heat for 20min-40 min (depending on how much time you have)
  • Continue adding Tobasco, salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste
  • Ladle into bowls, then add avocado and tortilla strips
  • Feel Better!
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