One of the advantages of WordPress is that it lets me know what posts are most popular, and it seems that anything to do with food is at the top of the list. So, today’s post will be about the soup in the title, recipe courtesy of my friend Gail Dejmal.
I recently caught a ride with my friends Richard and Magda, and we went to the Zentralia mall in Colima, where they have the major stores Sears and Liverpool. I took advantage of the fact that I would be bringing my purchases back by car instead of two buses and bought myself a combination pressure-cooker, crock pot, deep fat fryer, plus a 4 other settings all rolled into one large electric cooking pot.
I had asked for recipes for which I did not have to use an oven, and Gail obliged me with two recipes via messaging, so I set about looking for ingredients. One ingredient, of course, is chicken. There are several places where I can get fresh chicken, and this time I went to a woman who lives across the street from the jardín. From her, I got a frozen, whole, cut-up chicken for 100 pesos (the exchange rate varies from day-to-day and sometimes even hour-to-hour. It can be anywhere from 12 pesos per USD to 20 pesos to USD).
Anyway, it was almost literally a whole chicken – feet included. I recall my father saying that when he was growing up the women of the neighborhood would make chicken-foot soup. I asked some friends here about that, and they said that mothers here also make chicken-foot soup for their children, so I decided to include the feet in my soup.
I also recall when my son and I were in Cameroon and had dinner at my friend Victor’s house. We had cooked chicken, and my son ended up with the chicken head on his plate. I looked through the chicken body parts, but did not see a head, and the only guts were the liver and heart.
I had looked throughout all the small tiendas in the village, and had not seen any celery, nor any chayote, but every Tuesday they have a market in the jardín, called tianguis, so I had hope that I could find all the ingredients without having to take an hour bus ride into Villa de Alvarez to shop at Soriana. Sure enough, they had celery and chayote there, as well as carrots, onions, potatoes and garlic. For some of the other ingredients, I settled for the canned variety, but that was OK.
First, how can I describe chayote? It is a vegetable that comes in several forms, and can be cut up and eaten raw in salads or cooked. Different people have described the flavor differently, but for me it tastes like a very mild broccoli, and I prefer to eat it cooked. The type I prefer to use is a light green color, and it is somewhat shaped like a pear. It also can be small and light tan, with soft bristles on the skin. Another type I found in Soriana’s one day was large, darker in color, with spines over the whole thing as sharp as cactus needles. Seriously, I tried to pick it up, but could barely touch it, as the spines hurt my hand. The people who stock the produce must need to wear heavy gloves or use some kind of tongs to pick it up, and I don’t know how the shoppers put it in their baskets, either, but one day I will have to try it, just for the experience of having done it. Anyway, chayote was not in the recipe, but I like it, so I added one.
As an aside, they also eat cactus here, called cactus or nopales. It tastes good but you need to get past one aspect of it – it is slimy and exudes what can only be described as mucus. It can also be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Cooking gives it a more palatable texture, and as for raw, one of my friends gave it the very appropriate name of “snot salad.” (I apologize if I am offending anyone, but I just HAD to include that tidbit. After 45 years, you just can’t take the nurse humor out of me…)
In any case, back to the chicken soup. For the corn, I decided to use canned kernels. I got a Spanish lesson in the process of buying it – corn is maíz, corn flour is maseca, but when buying the corn kernels, you ask for elotes.
Another aside here, with your permission. Slight differences in pronunciation will get you different products. I went shopping for dried beans one day – in Spanish class beans can be frijoles or habichuelas. Here in Mexico, they only use the word frijoles. If you ask for frijol, you get the dried beans. Frijoles will get you the prepared beans, so unless you are friends with the person selling you the food, and they have an idea that what you are asking for is not what you really want, you need to be really careful about your pronunciation.
So, back again to the soup – I chopped up some of the ingredients, such as the onions and garlic, and fried them in a frying pan on the stove. Since ovens aren’t really used much here, and the recipe called for diced, cooked chicken, I decided the raw chicken could just cook in my slow-cooker and I could shred it afterwards. So after frying what I needed to fry, all the ingredients went into the pot to cook, chicken feet included.
When it was done cooking, the chicken was so tender it just fell off the bone, and as for the chicken feet, some of the skin was off that, too, but they still were unmistakably feet, so I scraped off what I could and plopped them into the garbage.
Even my Mexican friends like the soup, and as far as I know, didn’t add any Valentina sauce to it or sneak in any hot peppers.
So there you have it – one more article for all the foodies out there. I hope you enjoy this post and occasionally would like some feedback as to what you think about my articles, did you learn anything new, suggestions to improve or questions about life in Mexico.
¡¡¡Adiós y buen provecha!!!