Southwest Chicken Soup (and homemade chicken stock)

I love soups, I really do. I should put more of them on onehotmess because I have a few I love but have almost lost because I forgot the site or the site host changed/removed their post. I give all credit to paleOMG.com for this one, I have made some changes to fit our preferences and to make the meal more cost-effective.  As far as soups go, I don’t often have soup as the main dish because they just aren’t that hearty. Most hearty soups really belong in the “stew” section I think but this is definitely a soup. A soup you can call a meal! PaleOMG is an excellent site for paleo recipes, I have found many there I have liked and make often, and they are great every time.

Okay, to get more specific about this soup! This soup is on the spicy side, you can adjust the cayenne as needed if you can tolerate some heat but don’t want the whole thing. IMO, it isn’t that spicy but I like a lot of spice. The original recipe (linked above) calls for coating the chicken strips or tenderloin and baking them first. I cut out that step. Firstly, less handling raw meat to cut the breasts up and secondly it is more cost-effective to buy a whole chicken than just breasts or tenderloins. Also I really like using home-made stocks for my soups. There is a quality to home-made stocks that store-bought brands miss. They aren’t bad necessarily but not particularly flavorful and some of them can hide a lot of salt or other preservatives. Also I am suspicious of how much chicken/beef/vegetables are actually in the stock and where they came from. Are we talking about a use for leftovers at the food processing plant? In any case, I’ve made this several times, both ways and we prefer the boiled chicken better. The meat is more tender and more reminiscent of chicken soup. An added benefit of starting with a whole, home-boiled, chicken is that you get the start of a stock for no extra charge (and if you keep aside the picked carcass you can make a second stock to save!).

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS olive or coconut oil
  • 1 whole chicken, 3 – 4 pounds, more if you want extra chicken
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper (for color, any one will do), diced
  • 1 poblano or Anaheim pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes (I like Hunt’s variety)
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (leave out for a less spicy soup)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I wait to season individual bowls…this is a pretty flavorful sauce by the end)
  • 4 cups (32oz) chicken stock
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • plantain chips for garnish (optional but strongly encouraged)
  • sliced avocado for garnish (optional)

Either method is good but for the boiled way be prepared to start the chicken about 3 hours in advance of the meal. You’ll need that much time to boil the chicken for an hour and, depending on how much liquid you have, time to reduce it down to a stock. Luckily, most of this part doesn’t require much intervention once it gets to a boil. Just turn it down to simmer and walk away for an hour. Remove the chicken to cool, take off the lid and turn up the heat to get it boiling. At this point if you can pick a (hot) bone out you can throw one back in and add any vegetable or spices you’d like or just have a clean chicken stock with nothing added. Allow it to boil another 30 -45 minutes (this time greatly depends on how much fluid is left over) and check it. It may need a little more time but this is a good time to start picking the cooled chicken and chopping veggies while you keep an eye on it. The stock should get a thicker quality as it condenses, the color should go from more clear to more opaque, towards the yellow side and you can taste it for seasoning if you want. Once the stock is reduced, pour it into a bowl, possibly the bowl with the now picked chicken bits, to keep while the vegetables get going.

With your chicken picked and set aside and your stock removed from the pot, add the oil back to the pot (oh yeah, one pot yay!). Heat over medium-high heat and add all the fresh vegetables except the garnish, and sauté until the onions begin to become clear and the peppers soften. Stir often to prevent burning or sticking. Next, add the tomatoes and spices and stir to mix. Finally, add back the picked chicken and stock and stir to mix the veggies and spices, allow to simmer another 30 minutes. When that is done, stir in the lime juice, ladle out the bowls and garnish with the optional touches. As I said before, this soup is a very flavorful, slightly spicy soup and only a little salt is needed IMO. But then again I like to go easy on the salt.

If you’re going to continue the cost-effectiveness, save the bones in the fridge overnight to make a stock tomorrow. You can make a chicken stock easily out of any chicken bones, regardless if grilled or roasted..I’ve never used fried chicken bones though if you pick off the breading then maybe it’s OK?

The quick method is to just put in any bones and giblets you have (including ribs, neck, back, and feet if you have them) into a large stock-pot with roughly 4 quarts cold water and 2-3 TBS white vinegar and boil. (the longer way involves roasting the bones/innards first until browned) Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer 4-6 hours until it is reduced to your liking. More time if you can or depending on how much stock you want. The longer the simmer, the thicker and more flavorful the stock. For added flavor and nutrients, for the last 10-15 minutes add any combo of: whole crushed garlic cloves, chopped onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, or oregano (I wouldn’t suggest ALL of those herbs together…maybe just pick two) and continue to simmer. At the start, you can skim off the floaty fuzz that sometimes comes up. To store, pour the stock into several sets of ice-cube trays, freeze and keep for later. Freezing them into ice cubes makes it easier to take out the amount you need after frozen without having to thaw the whole batch. Just pick out what will fill your needed measurement and add a couple extra to account for the spaces. Better to have too much than too little.   Alternatively, if you want to have an almost fat-free broth then refrigerate it overnight in the pot or a large pitcher and scoop out the fat that will rise to the top and harden in the morning. The stock should be gelatinous under this layer of fat, don’t worry! It is a little harder to get the congealed stock into ice-cube trays but I promise, it is worth it to be able to easily use later.

I’m not sure how long the stock will keep frozen, honestly I use stock enough that I haven’t run into any problems. Use your best judgement. There! With very little effort you can make an excellent stock with no preservatives and you can customize your flavor at the same time getting all the good stuff out of the chicken you bought. And you thought it was done after you ate it! There are many nutrition and health benefits to using home-made stock and it is my opinion that if you use a good stock for your recipes it will add to your dish in the end. You may think that you don’t taste the stock much but I think that is because you aren’t using a tasty stock.

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