There’s never a wrong time for chicken soup, and winter seems especially appropriate, given that it is also cold and flu season. In the middle of January, my husband and I both found ourselves stuck at home with Covid. I had started experiencing symptoms on a Thursday night, and I was quick to blame the just-completed replacement of our entire HVAC system as the culprit for the sore throat and sneezing that had suddenly walloped me. Dust and bits of insulation had been falling out of all the vents in the house for two days, so of course I felt lousy. At least, with the new system, I’d be warm.
But two nights later, as I sat shivering on the sofa, despite wearing a bulky sweatshirt, fuzzy jammie pants, two pairs of socks, my Land’s End shearling-lined slippers and curling up under a big ass blanket, I knew I was in trouble. The lines on my at-home rapid Covid test were not only pink— they were bright magenta! Les tested positive the next day, and we settled in for a week of being bored out of our ever-loving minds. Thank God we have every TV streaming service known to man, and some of the kindest neighbors around who did front porch drop-offs of soup, orange juice and other sick-at-home necessities. We are grateful.
That first night of symptoms, I had made this southwest-themed chicken soup, and it was exactly what I needed, though I wish I had made a double batch. Next time, I will do exactly that and I’ll stash some in the freezer— just in case!
The soup is quick to make because it relies on a supermarket deli roast chicken and a few easy pantry ingredients. The chicken I selected was labeled “Peruvian,” which includes seasonings like paprika, cumin and oregano— all perfectly compatible for a southwest-themed soup. I used almost exactly half of the chicken, including the shredded meat from a thigh, breast and drumstick, plus the skin (I’ll explain in a moment). The remaining chicken meat went into a very tasty chicken salad that Les made, using some of his fabulous pimiento cheese. It was so good on sandwiches, and I’ll try to sweet talk him into making that again to share on the blog.
I started the soup with a quick saute of chopped onions and diced jalapeno— just long enough to soften them up. A few shakes of chili powder added a layer of flavor, and then I poured in a whole carton (4 cups) of chicken stock, the shredded chicken and several pieces of skin from the chicken, and I heated it to the point of a low boil before dropping it to a simmer. The skin released extra flavor into the soup, and I pulled them out before serving the soup.
While the soup simmered, I prepped the fresh toppings which included diced avocado and torn cilantro leaves, plus wedges of fresh lime to squeeze over at serving. A small can of hot salsa added a big punch of flavor. Pre-cooked brown rice saved precious minutes and added a little whole grain to the soup.
The only thing my soup still needed was a little bit of crunch on top. Any other day, I would have just served it with a few tortilla chips on the side. But on that day, when I was already feeling crummy and didn’t want to run to the store, I found instead a package of corn tortillas shoved into the back of our deli drawer. So I heated some peanut oil, cut up the corn tortillas into small strips and fried them crispy. It took only about 4 minutes, and it was the perfect finishing touch!
Southwest Chicken Soup
A deli roast chicken and a few easy pantry ingredients make this flavorful twist on a classic comfort food perfect for chasing away the mid-winter blahs!
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- A few shakes of prepared chili powder
- 4 cups chicken stock or broth
- About 2 cups shredded or chopped roast chicken (and skin, optional)
- 10 oz. can spicy salsa (I used Herdez brand)
- About 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (I used pre-cooked Minute Rice)
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 fresh lime, cut into wedges for serving
- Small handful of fresh cilantro leaves
- Crispy tortilla strips (store bought or homemade, for serving; my recipe is below)
- Heat olive oil in a medium sized soup pot, over medium heat. Add onions and jalapeños, season with salt and pepper and sauté until softened. Sprinkle with a few shakes (about 1/2 tsp) chili powder.
- Add chicken stock and shredded chicken. Drop any crispy roasted chicken skin into the soup pot to extract the extra flavor.
- Stir salsa into the soup and heat until it comes to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Prepare crispy tortilla strips while soup simmers, or skip this step if you’re using pre-made chips.
- Add brown rice and heat through. Serve soup in shallow bowls, topped with chopped avocado and torn cilantro.
- Top each bowl with a few crispy tortilla strips and serve immediately.
- 4 to 6 corn tortillas, cut in half, then stacked and cut into strips about 1/2-inch wide
- 1 cup neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed, canola or peanut oil
- Salty seasoning of your choice
- Heat oil in a shallow pot over medium-high heat; it should measure about 1-inch deep in the pot.
- Add a few test strips of tortilla to the oil to test the temperature. They should immediately bubble all over.
- Fry tortilla strips for about 4 minutes, until light and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the strips. Drain them on layers of paper towel, and sprinkle right away with salt or seasonings.