Cooking Like A Mexican

Lime Soup
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

Interestingly, there are only three gastronomies in the world that are considered Intangible Heritage of Humanity: French gastronomy (through its influence on other cuisines), the Mediterranean gastronomy (for its healthiness) and Mexican gastronomy (for its origins and its diversity and variety). This is something to be proud of, and as a Mexican I am.

And it is that Mexican cuisine has significantly influenced world cuisine, besides being the country where various foods have their origins like corn, beans, avocado, cocoa, and pepper, among many others. Mexican cuisine has been prestigious in the world and recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Intangible Heritage of Humanity due to its own character and how it is distinct from other world cuisines.

The qualities of Mexican cuisine come from the richness of the different regions in the country and the Yucatan region (think Cancun), is one of the most important.  Mixing elements of culture with European, Arab and a Caribbean influence, the cuisine of the Yucatan peninsula is considered a fusion of cultures, resulting in a wide range of flavors in delicious dishes.

One of the ingredients used in Yucatan’s dishes is the lime, a fruit that begins its season in the cold months, creating a bitterness between acid and sweet, depending on the variety, and bringing a special touch to recipes that use it.

Lime soup is one of the most traditional dishes of the Yucatan peninsula. Contrary to what its name suggests , lime is not its main ingredient, it is actually a chicken soup garnished with lime and spicy habanero chile.

Generally this soup is served at dinner and especially when it is chilly outside because it will bring warm to your body. This recipe calls for key lime that is only obtainable in Yucatan, but it can be replaced by a common Florida lime flavor and the authinticity is not substantially altered. So here is the recipe, once you try it you would hardly like any other kind of chicken soup.

Ingredients:

1 to 1 1/2 cups canola or corn oil for frying

6 corn tortillas

1 1/4 cup chopped onion ( you can use white but the correct one is the purple one)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 habanero chile, seeded and minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

1 pound tomatoes (2 large), cored, peeled, and chopped (or 1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes)

2 quarts of chicken stock (if it is homemade it is better)

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

1 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer, we like the stronger taste of thighs), trimmed of excess fat, and cut in half crosswise

1/3 cup lime juice (from 2 to 4 limes, depending on the size)

1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped (stems included) for garnish

2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and roughly chopped for garnish.

Procedure:

One day before, place tortillas in a single layer on a baking sheet. let it aerate in the open (This will help dry out the tortillas a bit before frying.) The day after before you start cooking your soup, cut the tortillas into 1/4-inch wide strips.

Pour about 1 to 1 1/2 cups oil into a large, thick-bottomed pot. (Don’t worry, after the tortillas are done you are going to strain them and then re use the olive oil in the rest of the recipe.) Heat the pot on medium high heat until a small piece of tortilla placed in the oil sizzles. Do not let the oil reach the smoking point. When this happens, my fire alarm goes off and my cat goes crazy. Now you’ve got craziness going on in your kitchen. Working in batches, gently scatter a handful of tortilla strips in the hot oil. Turn with metal tongs so that the tortilla strips are separated. Cook for a few minutes or until the strips just begin to color. Remove them to a paper towel lined plate.

Using two tablespoons of the tortilla frying oil. Heat on medium high. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, the minced habanero chile, the cinnamon, and the ground cloves and cook a few minutes longer.

Add the peeled chopped tomatoes to the onions. Add the stock, oregano, and chicken. Add one teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through.

Remove pot from the heat. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred the chicken. I use two forks to do this.

Return the chicken to the soup. Stir in the lime juice. Add more salt, if needed, to taste.

Serve garnished with fried tortilla strips, chopped avocado, and cilantro.

Tip: You can also grate some lime peel, without the white part, and put it on each plate. Looks nice and the lime soup is filled with a refreshing aroma.

Alejandra ,