If I were to ask my husband what soup I should make, without fail, he asks for a big pot of Southwest Chicken Soup. What he loves about it is that it’s rich with flavor and manages to be hearty without weighing him down. What I love about it is that it is packed with nourishing ingredients and has flexibility with ingredients. All the goodness of a chicken soup, with a spin by adding spices and extras.
I have to let you know that this soup is its absolute richest and best if it starts with a whole chicken or bone-in pieces of both white and dark meat. That is how you extract the richness and nourishment that we all want in our chicken soup. However, the beauty of this soup is that you can also use shortcuts if needed and use prepared chicken stock and pre-cooked chicken. I am going to explain it as if you are making it entirely from scratch, but you can certainly use pre-made chicken and stock if you’d like.
I begin by putting a whole chicken in a pot in the morning, if at all possible, and covering it with water. Don’t forget to take out any giblets and their plastic bag from inside the bird! I add a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and some pepper and cook it on medium heat about an hour and a half until it floats (a sign that it is cooked through). Remove the chicken from the pot, let it cool enough to handle so you can remove the meat from the bones. Put the meat in the fridge to cool and toss the bones all back in the pot to simmer for as many hours as you have until dinner. Strain the bones out and you have a rich stock from which to start the base of your soup.
Chop 1 medium onion and 3 cloves of garlic. Set aside.
Mix 2 T. chili powder, 2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. cayenne, and 1 tsp. smoked paprika in a small bowl and set aside.
Add 2 T. olive oil to a pot and heat to medium. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add in the chopped garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chili powder spice mixture into the onions and garlic for a minute or two to toast the spices and let the flavors release.
Add the following ingredients:
30 oz. cooked tomatoes (I prefer fire-roasted for extra flavor depth),
6 c. chicken stock or broth,
15 oz. drained and rinsed black beans,
1 1/2 c. corn,
2 T. lemon juice,
2 tsp. salt,
1 tsp. pepper.
Bring everything to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for at least 30 minutes to let everything marry and get happy in the pot.
While the soup is simmering, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut 8 corn tortillas into 1/4″ strips using kitchen shears or a pizza cutter. Toss them with a little olive oil and place them on a lightly buttered baking sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt. and bake in preheated oven for around ten minutes or until desired level of golden crunch.
Cut 3 cups of cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces and add it back to the pot five minutes before serving. You can also add in an 8 oz. block of softened cream cheese for more flavor, just know that it may end up looking a bit lumpy in the soup. I have tried every method for avoiding cream cheese lumps from tempering to warming to blending, and it just never looks pretty. But it tastes REALLY good, so take my advice and add the cream cheese. Taste to see if you need to adjust any seasonings to your liking.
Shred some fresh sharp Cheddar. Slice some soft avocados. Get out the salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, and cilantro (if you like that kind of thing), and garnish the heck out of a beautiful bowl of soup. Throw some of those tortilla strips on top and you have a winner-winner, chicken soup dinner ready to go!
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