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Warm Up with Mexican Chicken Soup from 'Milk Street'

Daniel Hautzinger
Milk Street's Mexican Chicken Soup with Tomatillos and Hominy. Photo: Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Photo: Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Now that it's cold outside, there's a good chance you're making and eating a lot of soup. If you're looking for something a bit different from your typical chicken soup, something that has a nice hit of heat and some ingredients that might make you feel like you live somewhere warmer, try this recipe from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street

Mexican Chicken Soup with Tomatillos and Hominy

For a fresh take on chicken soup we looked to Mexico for inspiration and came up with one that builds layer upon layer of flavor – spice, chilies, and herbs. We used charred fresh jalapeño and poblano peppers, a flavor-boosting technique common to Mexican and Latin American cooking. For our dried spices we added depth with relatively little effort by using toasted whole as well as ground coriander and cumin. Bone-in, skin-on chicken legs gave us broth-thickening collagen. For more spice, use serranos instead of jalapeños, or include the chilies’ seeds. If you can’t find fresh tomatillos, substitute canned tomatillos, drained. The broth and chicken can be made a day ahead and refrigerated separately before proceeding. However, shred the chicken while it’s still warm. We liked garnishing the soup with chopped avocado, sliced jalapeños, crumbled queso fresco, and fried tortilla strips.

Note: Don’t leave out the tomatillos. They give the soup acidity and texture.

Start to finish: 2 hours (1 hour active)

Servings: 6


2 large white onions, 1 quartered, 1 chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves separated
2 whole dried ancho or pasilla chilies, stemmed, seeded, and torn into rough pieces
2 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted, plus 1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted, plus 1 tbsp ground cumin
Kosher salt
1 head of garlic
2 1/2  to 3 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken legs
2 fresh poblano chilies
2 fresh jalapeño chilies
1 lb fresh tomatillos, husked and quartered
2 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
15-oz can hominy, drained
Toasted pepitas, lime wedges, and sour cream or Mexican crema (optional), to serve

1. In a large pot, combine 10 cups water, the quartered onion, cilantro stems, dried chilies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and 1 tsp salt. Cut off and discard the top third of the garlic head, leaving the head intact, and add to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook partially covered for 30 minutes, maintaining a gentle simmer.

2. Meanwhile, heat the broiler to high with an oven rack 6 inches from the element. Arrange the poblanos and jalapeños on a rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning frequently, until evenly blackened and blistered, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly and set aside. Chop the cilantro leaves and set aside.

3. Peel, stem, and seed the charred chilies, then roughly chop and add to a food processor along with the tomatillos. Pulse until coarsely chopped, 6 to 8 pulses.

4. Transfer the chicken and garlic head to a plate and let cool. Strain the broth, discarding the solids. Wipe out the pot. Add the oil, chopped onion, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Add the ground coriander, ground cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the tomatillo-chili mixture and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any browned bits, until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.

5. Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces, discarding the skin, bones, and cartilage. Using tongs, squeeze the garlic head into the soup. The tender cloves should easily pop out of their skins. Add the chicken and hominy. Return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chopped cilantro, then taste and season with salt, if necessary. Top the soup with toasted pepitas, lime juice, more chopped cilantro, and sour cream, if desired.