Episode 26: Chicken Noodle Soup with Chipotle Pesto, plus Baked Sweet Potatoes

December 6, 2009

This week, it’s a menu for winter doldrums. I’m nursing a light cold with some chicken soup–and adding chipotle chiles and garlic for extra health-giving kick. On the side: a baked sweet potato, packed with vitamin C.


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Shopping list

    2 chicken thighs, bone-in
    2 cups chicken stock
    Pasta (or pearl couscous or rice)
    Flour or corn tortillas
    Sweet potatoes
    2 carrots
    Celery (optional)
    Grape tomatoes
    Small bunch cilantro
    1 lime
    1 onion
    5 cloves garlic
    Olive oil

Chicken Noodle Soup with Chipotle Pesto

chixsoup 027This is basically a very generic chicken noodle soup, but with a handful of details that make it super-flavorful: with the fresh chicken and the toasted pasta (you could also use pearl couscous, orzo or even rice), it’s a lot richer than a soup made from just canned broth. All the trimmings (cilantro, the chipotle pesto on top, a squeeze of lime) make it semi-Mexican, but you can adapt the basic soup any way you like–take out the tomatoes, add different herbs and spices, mix up a different sort of pesto to dab on top…

serves 2
2 chicken thighs, bone-in
Drizzle olive oil
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken stock
2 carrots
2 ribs celery (optional)
Large handful grape tomatoes
1/2 avocado
Large handful noodles of your choice (elbows, etc.)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo
Small handful cashews
1 lime
Small bunch cilantro
Flour or corn tortillas

Chop one chicken thigh up roughly into 4 or 5 pieces, cutting through the bone if possible. Set a heavy soup pot on medium heat; add a small drizzle of oil, just to coat the bottom. Add both chicken thighs (the cut-up one and the whole one, skin-side down) and let brown.

Chop the onion into rough slices and add to pot with chicken, alongside. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the onions and the chicken. Peel and chop the garlic coarsely.

When the chicken is somewhat browned and no longer shows any pink, remove the whole chicken thigh and set it aside; leave the remaining pieces of chicken in the pot. Add the garlic to the onions and stir and fry briefly. Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to low and let the chicken, onions and garlic steam for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

chixsoup 032Peel your carrots and slice them into half-inch chunks. (If using celery, cut into quarter-inch rings.) Slice the grape tomatoes in half (using this genius method). Cut the avocado into cubes (as at left) and set in your serving bowls.

Check on your chicken in the pot–when the onions are soft, and the chicken has given off a little liquid, add the chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir the mixture together. Turn the heat up to medium-low and toss in the carrots. Also remove the skin from the whole chicken thigh and return the meat to the pot.

Set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tiny drizzle of oil. Add the dry pasta, stirring well to coat each piece with oil. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is toasted and brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Immediately remove the pasta to a small bowl, to keep it from browning further in the pan.

chixsoup 033Make the chipotle pesto: Chop the chiles fine (scrape seeds out if you want less heat), along with the garlic and cashews. Add a generous squeeze of lime and extra adobo from the chipotle can to make a loose paste. Also rinse the cilantro and pick the leaves off the stems.

After the carrots have been in the soup for about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and the pasta. Let simmer until the pasta is al dente and the carrots are soft. Remove the thigh bone and the whole chicken thigh from the soup and let cool briefly; remove the meat and return it to the soup.

Just before serving, heat up your tortillas: fry them briefly in a dry skillet (or the one you did the pasta in, with the extra oil wiped out), until they have a few brown spots and puff up (flour ones do this more).

To serve the soup, ladle it over the avocado pieces. Top with a small dollop of the chipotle pesto, and a small handful of cilantro. Add another spritz of lime and enjoy with hot tortillas on the side. (They’re also good with honey for dessert…)

Whole Baked Sweet Potatoes

chixsoup 024This is a cinch. The only trick is remembering to put the sweet potatoes in the oven very first thing when you start cooking, so they have time to finish while you do the rest of the meal. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse your sweet potato(es), scraping off any obvious chunks of dirt, but don’t sweat it too much. Poke each sweet potato 5 or 6 times with a fork. Stick ’em in the oven, and let bake for 35-40 minutes, until they’re nice and soft. Slice open and eat like a regular baked potato, with a dab of butter, and maybe some salt and pepper.

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