Handsome Greg and I went to Mexico two years ago, and I came home with the worst cold evah, right about the time we were all just hearing about swine flu.
(I did not have swine flu.)
I was fine for most of our vacation, but two days before we left Mazatlan for home, I woke up in our hotel room with a sore throat, a stuffy nose, and a lingering cough that made me want to gargle in my lungs.
There were a few things that comforted me in those I-can’t-believe-I’m-sick-on-vacation days: travel Scrabble on the balcony with Greg, the wholehearted sun (in March, you guys), the ocean lapping at my feet, and the tortilla soup at the hotel restaurant on the beach.
Until I tried the tortilla soup at the Hotel Playa Mazatlan, I’d never believed in the magical healing power of chicken soup. But this soup. This was the kind of soup that divides your life into Before Tortilla Soup and After Tortilla Soup.
The soup I had at the Hotel Playa Mazatlan started with a bowl of freshly fried tortilla strips, queso fresco, and avocado. A steaming, spicy, smoky chicken broth was poured over the fresh ingredients, melting the cheese and softening the tortillas. Then bright, fresh cilantro was snipped on top.
While I could never dream of recreating the Mexico soup made of fireworks and lullabies and unicorns, I was inspired to make my own spicy chicken soup. The soup I make in my kitchen is cheap and tasty and filling. It’s not going to blow your head off with heat, but my Midwestern palette finds it warming all the way down, like a scotch neat.
Recipe below the fold
Spicy Chicken, Black Bean, and Grilled Corn Soup
1 ear fresh corn, shucked
1 tablespoon oil (I used rendered chicken fat)
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups roasted chicken, shredded
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon lime juice
Preheat a grill or a grill pan over medium heat. Brush the ear of corn liberally with canola oil. Grill the corn for about 24 minutes, giving it a quarter turn every 6 minutes. Remove from the grill and let cool for 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle cut kernels from corn.
[I used my electric grill and it didn’t do much for the corn. I think in the future, I’ll either grill it outside over charcoal, or just use a cup of frozen corn kernels.]
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the shredded chicken, corn, beans, tomatoes, herbs, and spices; stir to combine. Stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in lime juice. Serve with cilantro.