Chicken soup is known as Jewish “penicillin,” and this soup has all the makings of a Mexican version. It includes enough garlic to kill all of the bacteria in your system, while the chile de árbol in the broth opens your sinuses and heats your chest. My addition of squash blossoms and the licorice-smelling hierba santa give it a distinctive Oaxacan flare. The optional poached egg creates a dish hardy enough for a cena (evening meal) although I’ve eaten it for breakfast many times. —Chichilo23
1 1/2 tablespoons
1½ tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons
1½ tablespoons olive oil
heads of garlic, cloves separated and thinly sliced
fresh squash flowers, cleaned, with sepals, stems, and pistils removed
medium hierba santa leaves, rib removed and cut into strips, or ½ bunch watercress with a nice shot of Pernod or anisette
dried chile de árbol, or chile japonés
fresh chicken stock
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
bolillo or other french bread, cut into 1/2 inch square chunks to make 2 cups croutons
flat-leaf parsley, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
quesillo or gouda cheese, cut into ½-inch chunks
In a heavy 4-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt the butter and olive oil together and sauté the garlic slowly, stirring so it does not brown, for about 15 minutes or until soft and translucent.
Add the squash flowers and hierba santa or watercress leaves and sauté 3 minutes longer, stirring lightly, taking care not to break up the squash flowers. Add the chile, bay leaf, and chicken stock. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the bread cubes in a hot 400°F oven or in a dry frying pan until brown.
Five minutes before serving, season soup with sea salt and pepper and add the parsley.
In the bottom of each soup bowl, place 5 bread cubes and 5 cheese cubes. Ladle the soup over the bread and cheese, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.
Or if serving the eggs, carefully break open the eggs, one at a time, on a flat plate and slip them into the hot broth. Spoon a poached egg into each serving bowl, add the cheese and the bread cubes, ladle soup over all, and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from ¨Seasons of My Heart, A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico¨
(Ballantine Books, November 1999, ISBN 0-345-42596-0)