Saturday, January 28, 2006

My Favorite Mexican Soups

¡Hola a todos! I have drifted away from posting here of late, occupied with other interests. It's been a medley, or perhaps a potpourri of various cuisines here in my Mexican Kitchen. More on that, later. First, some catching up:

A few weeks ago, during some of our coldest weather here, I started a thread on's Mexican Kitchen Forum about soups.
Below is an edited repost: There are so many wonderful Mexican soups, it's difficult to know where to begin. Maybe we can start by telling our favorites, from 1 to 5. I want to exclude pozoles and menudos from this discussion, because they are in a class by themselves
I'll start off with my own favorites, in no particular order:

1. Sopa de Ajo

2. Caldo Tlalpeño (an unusually "loaded" version.

3. Sopa Tarasca (especially made with bean puree). (I've now taken a photo of my own.)

4. Caldo de Mariscos, which might not qualify as a soup, exactly, due to its high content of delicious sea-morsels.

Photo taken at Mariscos La Güera,, in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, at Avenida Federico Tena and Libramiento

One more from my long list of favorite soups:

5. Mole de Olla, another hearty, picante, soup/stew that when eaten, will set your world alright. This one was cooked at a small, street-corner puesto in Colonia Roma Sur, México, DF. We had it during a stay at Christmas time. It was the best we have had. It's a medley of large cuts of vegetables plus chunks of beef, in a zesty chile broth. This one had surprises, such as xoconostles, a sour cactus fruit, and pieces of a bitter chayote, something like bitter melon, as well as the more mundane, yet delicious elote, ejotes, etc.

There were a number of other interesting contributions on the Mexconnect thread. The one that stands out in my mind is that from Esperanza, a notable, expert, very knowledgeable cook who contributes to various Web boards.
Her soup was the unusual Atapakúa de Epazote, Cilantro y Chile. After a week of thinking about it, I made made this actually very simple soup. I made one small, non-traditional change to Esperanza's guidelines. I added the kernels of two elotes de maíz.
Below, her guideline "recipe".
Note: The chicken broth must be made from "real chicken", no Knorr-Suiza Caldo de Pollo here.

This particular atápakua is made with chicken broth, fresh epazote, cilantro, chile perón, and a bit of masa to thicken it. It's hotter than the hinges of hell (I've typed that phrase about five times in the last 24 hours--I need a new phrase) but really delicious. I love it and make it fairly frequently.

The recipe...well, the Purhépecha woman who gave me the recipe gave it to me exactly as I typed it in my earlier post. You know: put in enough epazote, enough chile perón, enough cilantro, and then dissolve a little ball of masa in the chicken broth to thicken it. I've never written the proportions down when I've made it, so you are all on your own to discover how you like it. Epazote and cilantro should be the predominate flavors, with enough heat from the chile perón to make your tongue hang out. You want to blend the herbs and the chile in the blender and then add the blend to the chicken broth. Bring the seasoned broth to a simmer (not a boil). In the blender, blend a bit of the hot broth with enough masa to thicken the pot. Whisk the blended masa/broth into the rest of the soup to thicken it. The soup should be about the thickness of any crema (soup made of puréed vegetables) and it should be bright green in color.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the atápakua I made. It was, however, delicious.

Coming next: Can Sauerbraten be made successfully in a small, Mexican city; and furthermore, what about the traditional accompaniments, such as Braised Red Cabbage in Red Wine, and a nice, crisp, golden Potato Pancake with that?

A coming attraction: Gado gado, Michoacán style; employing the wealth of fresh vegetables available here.