This is close to all I have left in the house; chicken bones. There might not be a whole lot of people who would get excited about a pack of bones they found in the freezer, but A., these aren’t just any bones, they are organic beauties and B. I do.
I hoard them like a squirrel, nipping off wing tips and and snipping out back bones that will never be missed from roasting chickens if you just split the whole chicken in half before you roast it.
I’m going to make something I don’t usually make because you know it’s good to every once in while to remind you that life is not only what you usually do.
Mexican tortilla soup. Start by bringing the bones to a boil with just enough water to cover. When they are at the boil, toss the water, rinse the bones and pot and now add more water, enough to come a few inches from the top of the stock pot, along with the bones, a carrot, a stalk of celery, an onion and a clove of garlic. If you have it, add a sprig of fresh parsley, a bay leaf and a tiny piece of tomato. Cook this, skimming the scum from the top and cooking it for as long as you can, or from an hour to four over a very low flame. Strain, throw away the bones and veggies, and set aside.
Saute one finely chopped onion and the inside stalks of a head of celery (or even just the onion) until softened and caramelized. This is the most important part of the whole soup. The slower and longer you can cook the onions, the better it’s gonna be. Sometimes patience gets you no where and sometimes it gets you exactly where you want to go and may have never been before.
Mince three cloves of garlic and add them to an empty spot in the frying pan along with an extra drop of olive oil so that the garlic doesn’t burn and then stir all the vegetables together. Add a tablespoon of chilpotle peppers packed in adobe sauce (look for the little orange can with the pretty lady on the front called La Morena). Add even more if you like it spicy and one 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, squished before they go in. Taste for salt. Add a bay leaf and 2 cups of your stock. Simmer for half an hour. Using one whole breast, you can either remove the skin and poach it whole over a low flame right in the soup, or season it with salt and pepper and roast in the oven while the sauce is cooking. Either way, when the chicken is done, shred it, and add to the soup.
Taste the soup again for salt. Add a squeeze of lime juice and some chopped fresh cilantro. For your final garnish, fry some corn tortillas in corn or peanut oil until crisp and salt them as soon as they come out. Drop a few into each bowl of soup along with a few chunks of avocado that have been tossed with a little more lime juice, salt, and diced tomato. Sprinkle with fresh, sliced green onion and serve with flour tortillas that have been covered with jack cheese (and a little goat cheese if you like it) and sliced jalapeno, covered with another tortilla and heated up on both sides in heavy frying pan brushed with olive oil. Or cornbread or corn pudding and flan or cinnamon donuts for dessert.
The trouble with starting down the road of “this-isn’t-what-I-normally-do” is, it’s hard to stop thinking of the possibilities.