Maybe it's the excitement of the birthday weekend, or the truly freaky weather we've been having, but we are once again down with the flu or something like it. This has been a rough year, virus-wise, for our family and just about everyone else we know. Hindsight is 20/20 - we should have gotten flu shots.
Our family relies on 2 different chicken soup recipes when we are feeling our lowest. Both are spicy, one Mexican and one Indonesian. The first comes together with relatively few ingredients and requires very little culinary finesse; the second builds a curry from scratch, so is more involved. Both will get your endorphins kicked in and your immune system humming. You can find the Mexican version below; I'll tackle the Indonesian one another time.
Whenever we roast a chicken, we ziplock the remains and throw them in the freezer until we have 2 or 3. The next afternoon we'll be puttering around the house, we dump the frozen carcasses plus a couple onions, carrots, celery ribs and various herbs into a pot and let it all simmer for a few hours. The chicken does double-duty and we rarely have to buy chicken broth.
Green Chile Chicken Soup - Adapted from the Santa Fe Hot and Spicy Cookbook.
If you live in the southwest, you know where to get frozen green chile as hot or mild as you like. If you live anywhere else, your options are very limited. You can order it from here: http://www.dagiftbasket.com/product_info.php?products_id=1819 or you can settle for canned. Ortega has finally come out with a canned version in "hot," available in some grocery stores, that is not bad.
Take a 3-4 lb free-range chicken (I vastly prefer Colman Organic, available at some Costcos, to any other commercial brand), pull out the innards, then rinse the chicken and pat dry. Put the chicken in a large, deep pot and just cover with either broth or water or a combination. Chop up a yellow onion and toss in; throw in 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
While the chicken cooks, scrub and quarter 8-10 small potatoes, such as dutch babies or yellow finn or new reds. Cut 2 zucchini into spears, then quarter-rounds. Pull a bag of peas from the freezer and a bag of "baby" carrots from the fridge.
When the chicken is falling off the bone, take it out of the soup using tongs or a strainer, and let it cool on a plate or wide bowl. Leave the soup simmering and throw in the potatoes and as much green chile as your palate dictates. If you are using frozen green chile and are unfamiliar with it, measure it out in tablespoons. If you're using canned, you'll probably want 2-3 of Ortega's 4oz cans. Add 3-5 chopped garlic cloves and continue simmering while the chicken cools.
When ready, pull meat off the chicken and put back into soup. Throw in your carrots and zucchini and peas, plus a 1/2-1 C chopped cilantro. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Ladle about a half cup of whole milk or half-and-half in and just heat, perhaps 5 minutes more. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with warm tortillas or ciabatta bread.