Recipe and photo contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Sarah Menkedick
My husband Jorge made me his mom’s caldo de pollo for the first time when I was so sick I could barely stand up and I had no appetite for anything. I ate two enormous bowls and felt life coursing back into my veins for the first time in days. Since then, the soup has become a staple food for us, something we always associate with rejuvenation and recovery. There is no feeling comparable to the satisfaction following a steaming bowl of chicken and vegetables.
But this isn’t just your average, tame chicken soup. It’s given kick with diced raw white onion, jalapeño, and lime, and infused with a depth of flavor with the addition of hierba santa, a heart-shaped Mexican herb that has a dark green anise flavor. Inspired spoonfuls of dried thyme and oregano make the soup aromatic, and cumin and grainy black pepper add heartiness.
The trick is to start with a whole chicken, separated into parts. To this chicken you’ll keep adding vegetables, which you’ll cook until they are so soft they’ll melt in your mouth. The vegetables absorb the flavors of the broth and become almost a separate dish within a dish. The broth, meanwhile, is set off by the mini-salsa you’ll make of onion and jalapeño and the fresh lime squeezed on top. There is no equal cure for whatever ails you: boredom, heartache, sickness, or just a simple yearning for a curative chicken soup.
Cook the chicken in large pot filled with water until a brownish foam rises to the surface (about 15 minutes). Scoop off this foam.
Add the bouillon, spices, and all vegetables except for the diced onion and jalapeño, the lime, and the garbanzos. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft, about an hour. Add salt and more spices to taste. Add garbanzos at the last minute and warm for about 5 minutes.
Serve diced jalapeño and onion in a separate bowl and allow each person to add by the spoonful to the soup, depending on taste. Squeeze lime wedges over the soup. Serve with warm corn tortillas and sliced avocado.