Banner year for the tomatillos
It’s an odd time in the garden and in our food storage systems. We’re preparing for the onslaught that is the summer produce season, and we’re cleaning out our stored goods to make room for the new things. And some things are ripening when others are not: my peppers and tomatillos, for example, are going great guns whilst the tomatoes are only hinting at turning red. And some stored goods are just plain GONE, like the all-important foostuff that is SALSA.
I took advantage of our daughter’s overnight trip to her grandparents’ to make a very hot and tasty soup that made use of both the new produce and the frozen/canned stuff that needed to be used up. At the same time, I made an emergency quart or two of some mostly tomatillo salsa, with jalapenos and yellow Hungarian peppers, corn and canned green (color, not ripeness) tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, vinegar and fresh onions. She won’t object to something spicy if she doesn’t get to eat it! And both the soup and the salsa were nice and fiery.
This soup takes a while, both in prep and in time cooking it; if you are bound to spend your days in the kitchen anyway, this is a great soup to make while you’re doing other things. You can skip the chicken if you want a vegetarian soup, but I would add some olive oil and some cooked white beans for fat and protein.
El’s Hellfire Tortilla Soup*
- 3-4 small jalapenos or other hot pepper
- 7-8 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 10 or so peppercorns
- a 2″ piece of cinnamon stick
- one medium yellow onion, cut into thin rings
- one medium sweet red pepper, seeded and cut into thin rings
You are going to make a paste of these items, caramelized and roasted, above. In one small cast-iron skillet, place the jalapenos, garlic, peppercorns and cinnamon stick on medium heat and roast until the peppers and garlic cloves are slightly blackened, turning frequently. You can smash the peppers down with a spatula to ensure all sides get toasty, but don’t burst the pepper itself: it’s steaming nicely on the inside. Set aside to cool. Into the bowl of a mortar, squeeze the garlic out of its skin, add the peppercorns and crumble the cinnamon stick; pound to a grind and then add the seeded, lightly chopped peppers and pound to a paste. In a large cast-iron pan or in a hot oven on a cookie sheet, caramelize the onions and the pepper (use no oil) until the onions are golden and the pepper is cooked through. Add this and the contents of the mortar to the bowl of a food processor, whiz to a pulp.
- Chicken: I used a very large (humongo) breast: I blanched the breast in a bit of salted water until slightly cooked (about 20 minutes), then I cut the cooled breast into small-ish pieces, adding it back to the broth (about 2 cups of liquid)
- 1 quart tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, thyme, Mexican oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh corn: about two ears’ worth, chopped off the cobs
- 1 green or other mild-ish pepper, diced
- 2-3 tomatillos, diced
- 3 or so corn tortillas: brown them individually in a cast-iron pan then slice into finger-sized pieces
- minced parsley or cilantro
- juice of one lime
Add the soup base, chicken, chicken stock, spices, salt and pepper into a large stockpot and bring to a boil; reduce to a very low heat and simmer gently for a couple of hours. About an hour before serving, add the corn, pepper, and tomatillos and continue cooking. Check for seasonings and adjust accordingly. Immediately before serving, fish the bay leaves out of the soup and add the tortillas, parsley/cilantro and lime juice.
- Green onions
- Sour cream
- Queso blanco
- More roasted, chopped tortillas
*I got the beginnings of this recipe from somewhere but it’s gone in the sands of time. I changed it enough, anyway, to probably claim it as my own, so that’s what I am doing!