42. One of two soups made yesterday: Sopa de Pollo Veracruzana

Yesterday was a fine day for sunshine. Glorious clear sky, temps in the mid-sixties, beckoning me to take a walk… a walk that led, ultimately, to Saraveza.

Yesterday was a fine day for Saraveza. Though it would have been still nicer with my sweetie by my side, I had a lip-smacking glass of Consecration Sour, a plate full of vinegary veggie pickles and a lovely chat with several staff members and associates about chicken-keeping, costume-making and… well, soup.

Yesterday was a fine day for soup. Howard and Suzy are home with their adorable baby Jacob after a shorter-than-expected hospital stay and a very meaningful adoption ceremony. Hence, they are housebound in the way that only a slightly-early newborn can make one. Hence, they were in need of soup. Hence, I made two–this was one of them.

This started as a stew recipe from Real Stew
by Clifford A. Wright, a cookbook I'm thoroughly enjoying–I can't wait to dig into the lamb chapter.* I thought it would feed more people and be more in the spirit of this project if it were turned into a soup, though, so I had to go a little afield and come up with my own twist.

Sopa de Polla Veracruzana
Serves eight

Most of a 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped–I used what was left over from the butternut squash soup from the evening before
2 small to medium onions, peeled and quartered
5 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 cup blanched almonds, fairly finely chopped
15 to 20 good green olives–I used a combination of Ligurian and Sicilian–sliced off the pit and chopped
15 to 20 nonpareil capers, roughly chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
A few decent pinches of salt, plus more salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. In a large, shallow dish (the recipe said "preferably earthenware" so I used my trusty Pampered Chef oval baker, but I don't know how much that really matters), stir together tomatoes with their liquid, onions and garlic. Drizzle with 1/4 cup broth. Pop into the oven and roast until onions are lightly browned and tomatoes are beginning to collapse, probably about half an hour or so, stirring once or twice. When done, remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and then puree until fairly smooth in a blender or food processor.

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat; add chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides. (You'll probably need to do this in two batches.) Remove chicken from pot and set aside as it's browned.

Pour off all but two tablespoons fat. Heat over medium heat; add almonds, olives and capers. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything becomes fragrant and a little toasty, about five minutes.

Stir in tomato-onion mixture, stock, bay leaves, cinnamon and salt. Place chicken thighs in pot, skin side up, probably in two even layers. Bring almost to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer until chicken and everything else is very tender, about 45 minutes. This must be the lowest of the low simmers. Chicken toughens when it boils, so do everything in your power to keep the liquid from actually boiling. If need be, you can set a large cast-iron skillet over the heat, then put the soup pot into the skillet–whoo, instant flame tamer!

When chicken is completely tender, remove from pot, turn off heat and allow chicken to cool slightly. Remove and discard skin; shred meat from bones. Stir meat back into soup and heat through gently. Discard bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

* In all honesty, not much of a cookbook for the faint at heart. Ingredient lists are long, detailed and by no means confined to supermarket fare. Recipes are multi-step, multi-hour and sometimes even multi-day. But I am all about authenticity at the expense of practicality, at least when it comes to readable cookbooks, so this intensity doesn't bother me a bit.


About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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