It’s been cold here in Los Angeles the past couple of weeks. My grandchildren are coming over today and I want to make something warm and delicious for them to eat.
My grandmother always made caldos (soups) for us on cold or rainy days and it was always delicious, healthy and perfect for the weather. I always loved her soups, caldo de rez, caldo de pollo, pozole, menudo, sopa de tortilla, sopa de albondigas, etc. it was always good and made me feel warm, happy and safe.
I’ve made it a tradition to always make either caldo de rez (beef soup) or caldo de pollo on the first rainy day. It was something my children always looked forward to.
My grandchildren, Jasmine and Aiden’s favorite soup or caldo is caldo de pollo, they love my chicken soup and I love to make it for them. I like the idea of making them feel as safe, warm and protected as my grandmother made me feel.
Caldo Pollo/Mexican Style Chicken Soup
1 package of chicken thighs, washed, trimmed and patted dry (traditionally, they use a whole chicken cut into pieces, but I like the thighs)
2 bunches of fresh carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
about 2 pounds of small red potatoes (you can use russet and slice into quarters – Jasmine likes the red ones)
half a stalk of celery, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
2 ears of white corn on the cob, cleaned and sliced into chunks
5 Italian zucchini squash or Mexican squash, washed, cut into thin slices or 1 inch chunks
5-7 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled
1 cabbage, quartered
1 cup of chopped, fresh cilantro
5 leaves of fresh sage
salt to taste
Wash and trim the chicken, pat dry and place in a bowl or plate and set aside. Wash, trim and chop all your vegetables, setting the longer cooking ones in one bowl with the quick cooking veggies in another. The potatoes, carrots and corn go in one bowl, the zucchini and celery go into another. The quarters of cabbage are put to the side.
Quarter the onion and peel the garlic. Set aside.
Chop the cilantro and set aside.
Fill a stockpot with water about three inches from the top of the pot. Turn on the heat to high and bring the water to a boil.
Once the water is bubbling, lower the flame to a low simmering heat. Add the salt*, quartered onion, garlic, chopped cilantro and the sage leaves. The amount of garlic can vary with the type you use, or the size of the cloves. We like lots of garlic so we I use a lot.
Add the chicken pieces one by one, scooping out water with a ladle if it rises too high. You don’t want your soup boiling over. Simmer covered for about an hour and a half, till the chicken is falling off the bone.
Scoop out the garlic cloves and the sage. Skim off the fat. Scoop about 3 cups of the broth and set aside. You can always add more water if the soup doesn’t have enough. One of the things I do that my grandmother didn’t, is to remove the skins from the chicken pieces at this stage. I think it makes the soup taste better to leave it on during cooking, but once it’s cooked, I remove it.
Once the soup is cleared of garlic, sage leaves and the fat you can start adding the vegetables. Add the potatoes first, then the carrots, then the corn. Make sure your water line doesn’t go up to high. Cover and let simmer slowly for about 15 minutes.
Add in the celery and let simmer for another five minutes. Lastly, add the quarters of cabbage and the zucchini, turn of the stove and cover. Let the soup sit for about ten minutes, till the zucchini is cooked and the cabbage just wilted.
Serve over a bowl Mexican-stye rice with a dollop of the chile salsas of your choice and a squeeze of fresh lemon. We like it with steaming hot corn tortillas.
*I use fine crystal sea salt, about 2 tablespoons for this much soup. It can vary though, so start with a little and slowly adjust to taste.