Carlos has been sick for a week, and on Friday he was so sick that he even took off work. I’ve been doing every home remedy I know of to make him better – Vicks Vaporub on the feet before bed, honey lemon tea, vaporizers, vitamin C, and just plain old bed rest, but nothing seemed to help very much. (I did all these remedios caseros on myself too for prevention and so far, so good.)
On Saturday Carlos asked me to make him Sopa de Pollo, but he didn’t want the Bolivian Chicken Soup recipe I always use. He asked if I’d try to make Salvadoran Chicken Soup “with lots of vegetables” this time. Obviously he was needing a little extra apapachamiento! Of course I always love making a new Salvadoran dish and seeing the way his eyes light up when it’s a success, so I did some research, looked at a handful of recipes, and then headed to the grocery store to get what I needed.
Before the soup was even ready, Carlos was getting excited. He kept calling out to me from the living room where he was on the sofa covered in a blanket, “It smells so good. It smells like I remember…” Then when it was ready, I put the bowl before him at the table and he smiled, “It looks like how I remember!” … Then he tasted it, and I’m not exaggerating, he stood up, kissed me (on the neck so I wouldn’t get his germs) and told me he loved me. Jajaja.
Here’s my recipe in case you know a sick salvadoreño or salvadoreña who could use a little “TLC”, (Cuidado amoroso y tierno.)
Sopa de Pollo Salvadoreño
10 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
3 corn cobs, broken in half
1/2 1 small cabbage, cut in chunks
basil, (fresh, not dry)
2 to 3 celery stalks with leaves
2 cups baby carrots, (or cut up carrots)
3 green onions, (roots cut off)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 small potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
1 small zucchini, skin removed and chopped in bite-size pieces
1/2 cup uncooked rice or small pasta like “conchitas” (little shells)
1 tsp. salt, plus to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. achiote (ground annatto)
1. Assemble and prepare all your ingredients, (wash and chop vegetables, etc.)
Note: I used all boneless, skinless chicken thighs because Carlos prefers dark meat and it gives the stock a better flavor, but you can use a whole chicken cut in pieces (remove skin – bones optional as some people like to “chupar el hueso”), or substitute some chicken breasts. As for the vegetables, feel free to experiment. For example, some people use yucca instead of potatoes, and some add chayote/güisquil, broccoli, cauliflower, and/or green pepper.
2. In a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the chicken plus enough water to cover by about 2 inches.
3. Add to the pot: a handful of cilantro, a handful of basil, celery stalks with leaves, garlic, tomatoes, green onions, 1 tsp. salt, cumin, pepper, and achiote.
4. Simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. Use a slotted spoon to remove and then discard the cilantro, basil, celery, tomatoes and green onions. Use a small sieve to skim off any foam.
5. Add the rice (or pasta), corn cobs, potatoes, and carrots. Cook covered until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender.
6. Remove cover. Add cabbage and zucchini. Simmer for a minute or two and then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly and then taste. Add additional salt as desired. (I prefer to let each person add more salt to their own individual portion.)
7. Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro if desired. (I like to eat all the meat and vegetables out of it and then eat the broth with crushed Ritz crackers.)