Atole isn't always sweet! This savory chileatole verde con pollo is a delicious variation of chicken soup.
The word atole in the title refers to a thick, porridge-type cereal or drink that is popular in Mexico. It is usually served sweetened with a little cinnamon and also prepared with masa harina. The great thing about masa harina is that it can be used for sweet or savory recipes. For many years now, I have used it as a thickener for soups, chiles and sauces. I wanted to take advantage of the fresh corn that is perfectly sweet and in season right now. The chileatole is very inexpensive to prepare and can be prepared with a red chile or tomato base or like the one I prepared with green chiles and cilantro. Typically, there would be fresh epazote instead of cilantro, but it is not readily available in my area. I am fortunate that my friend Sue owns a kitchen store and she carried hard-to-find spices and dried herbs. The results of the masa harina in this soup recipe are similar to a chowder, but without all the extra heavy ingredients. Great for these cooler nights.
Using a sharp knife, remove corn from the cob and place kernels in a large bowl; set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
Preheat a large pot with 3 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat for a few minutes. Sear and brown the chicken for 4 minutes per side.
Add 2 or 3 of the corn cobs, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaves, chile pepper, 1 teaspoon epazote, oregano, chicken bouillon and 6 cups water to the pot of chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover partially and cook for 40 minutes.
In a bowl, combine the masa harina and 1 cup of water. Stir until smooth, set aside. In the blender, add serrano (to taste), 1/3 cup cilantro, 1 teaspoon dried epazote and 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth and strain through a wire mesh strainer stir in the lime juice. Discard pulp.
Remove chicken from pot and shred. Strain the broth and return broth to pot at medium heat. Add in the reserved fresh corn to the broth and cook for 10 minutes. Whisk in until smooth the masa harina mixture while soup is simmering. Add the strained green chile/cilantro mixture and shredded chicken. Continue cooking the soup for 15 to 20 minutes at a simmer. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve right away. Garnish with queso fresco and serve with warm tortillas.
If you find yourself with too much fresh corn, freeze it! Remove the kernels and transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread out and freeze for a few hours. Transfer to freezer bags and store for a few months.
Anytime a recipe calls for boiling or braising chicken, add more flavor to the broth/sauce by adding 1 chopped carrot, celery, bay leaves or chile pepper.
Prepare a super quick version of this soup! Pick up a roasted chicken from the local market and a good quality chicken soup base and dinner will be ready before you know it.