Chicken Chile Soup

Just when you think spring has finally arrived and you take your summer clothes out of the bins on the shelves and happily replace them with sweaters and sweatshirts and boots and line up your sandals and fold your shorts, that's when you wake up to 38 degrees and have nothing to wear. Sigh. The high today reached a whopping 49 degrees; it's cloudy, cold and damp. It’s May now. Enough of this already!

As disheartening as it is to be sadly longing for some warmth to return, it means there are still days when soup is a welcome comfort and a soothing balm to a winter-weary soul (perhaps a bit melodramatic there). But truth be told, I could eat this particular soup no matter the weather.

My sister in law has fixed this for us a couple of times and this last time while everyone was eating dessert, I was eating a second bowl of soup. It’s just that good. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me and I thought maybe you’d like some too.

The soup itself is easy enough to throw together… just shredded chicken and chiles and white beans, onions and broth simmering together, which is amazingly delicious. But the fun really begins in your bowl once you start adding grated cheese, chopped cilantro, maybe some tortilla strips and avocado, maybe some diced jalapenos, and then you just give the whole thing a few squirts of lime juice. Nothing less than a party happening in there!

I took these photos before I thought of adding the avocado and tortilla strips, so they're sort of invisible up there. But trust me, they're a seriously awesome addition and you're going to want them.

It's easy enough to make those tortilla strips. Just slice up a few corn tortillas into little strips, heat up a bit of vegetable oil until it's smokin' hot, throw em in (carefully) and let em sizzle.

Once the sizzling stops, you know they're about done. I let em go about 30 more seconds and then remove them to a paper towel to drain. You can keep them warm in a low oven if you like. I love the crunch they add so I sincerely urge you to consider them.

This soup could be an amazing part of your Cinco de Mayo if you decide to opt out of the 5 lb burrito this year. I can attest to the fact that chicken chile soup is quite happy being accompanied by cheesy quesadillas, guacamole and margaritas, and it most definitely loves a party.

Oh, and if you have a slow cooker and would like to just dump the ingredients in and walk away for a few hours, I've given you those instructions in the recipe.

As a postscript to the first paragraph, which was written yesterday, today has been a lovely spring day and it's now 72 degrees. But storm clouds are moving in and the temperature's dropping, and I just finished making a big pot of chicken chile soup. For a few days yet we will wear sweaters and eat soup. Here’s the recipe…

Chicken Chile Soup

Click here for a printable recipe

This is a great do-ahead meal for a crowd or a weeknight family dinner. You can throw all of the ingredients in a crock pot and let it cook all day. It just gets better with time. This is also a great soup to adapt to your own tastes. You could easily substitute roasted, peeled and chopped fresh chiles for the canned, or canned diced jalapenos for all or some of the chiles. This would also work well with shredded thigh meat.  For those of you with a crockpot, I've included a slow cooker version below.

Serves 6

For the Soup…

4 cups of cooked, shredded chicken breast (about 4 breasts)

2-3 tbs. olive oil,

1 large yellow onion diced

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tbs. minced fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

5 garlic cloves minced

12 oz fire roasted diced canned green chiles (such as Hatch)

6 cups of chicken stock (homemade is nice)

2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

For serving…

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (or more, if needed)

2 limes, sliced in wedges

Lots of grated jack cheese or cotija cheese

1 to 2 avocados, diced

Fried tortilla strips (optional)

Diced jalapenos (also optional)

In a large soup pot, sauté the diced onion in the olive oil until softened. Add the chopped garlic, cumin and oregano, and sauté until fragrant, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the remaining soup ingredients to the pot, cover and simmer for 1 -2 hours.

To serve, top bowls of the soup with grated cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, tortilla strips (if using) and lime wedges.

Slow Cooker Version

Combine 2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs with the remaining soup ingredients, using only 5 cups of the chicken stock. Stir to make sure the spices coat everything, Place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. (It's fine to cook for 8 hours on low, if needed, but the chicken tends to fall apart a bit more when you shred after cooking, rather than staying in pieces.)

About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, taste and add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt or other seasonings as desired. Add the lid back on and cook for the remaining time.

Lift the chicken from the slow cooker and shred it into large, bite-sized pieces with two forks. Stir the chicken back into the soup.  Serve as noted above.

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