When I was in high school, I was blessed to spend part of a summer with friends who lived in a Merida, a small city in the Yucatan province of Mexico. The food is exceptional in this region. It’s a wonderful mix of colonial Spanish and native Mayan cuisine.
This is my version of the chicken and lime soup that I remember from that time.
I cooked most of this recipe using leftovers. When I make chicken stock, I typically make a double batch so that I have something to work with if someone gets sick or if I don’t have the time to make soup for Shabbat. I had stock in the freezer that I wanted to use before Passover and a whole roasted chicken left over from Purim.
I even had corn tortillas in the freezer left over from the last time I made fish tacos, so I used those for the fried tortillas instead of buying a fresh pack.
My recipe calls for cinnamon and allspice, but both are used sparingly so it’s more aromatic than spiced. The soup itself is mild. I add in fresh avocado and sliced fresh jalapenos just before serving. If you’re not into spicy food you can omit the peppers or devein them before slicing so that you get a milder heat. The same goes for cilantro, which people have a love/hate relationship with. It’s a garnish, so if it’s not your favorite, simply leave it out.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll notice that I add lemon or lime to a lot of my recipes. It’s easy and refreshing to have fresh citrus on hand, and there’s nothing that I won’t season with it.
Sopa de Lima with fried tortilla
3 quarts (12 cups) chicken stock, homemade or store-bought is OK
3 cups cooked shredded chicken
7 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 dashes allspice
2 avocados; use half an avocado per bowl
5 small limes, 3 juiced and 2 sliced, to garnish
Zest from 1 lime
Fresh washed and chopped cilantro, to garnish
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Yellow corn tortilla garnish
10 small yellow tortillas, stale is OK
¾ cup of neutral oil, like avocado oil
You can make the tortillas at any time, even a day ahead. I often prepare extra because they make a great salad topping, especially for a Mexican-style salad bowl. You will need to cook these in 2 or 3 batches because the oil is shallow in the pan.
Heat the oil in a small sauté or saucepan over medium heat.
Slice the tortillas into ¼-inch-wide strips.
Pan-fry in oil until lightly golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally before removing to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
Sprinkle with sea salt while hot.
If you’re starting with pre-made soup cooked at home, first remove any vegetables from the broth.
Heat the soup over medium heat until gently boiling.
Add 7 cloves of sliced garlic, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 dashes of allspice before reducing the heat to simmer. Using a cinnamon stick as opposed to ground cinnamon will add more subtle flavoring.
Allow to simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes to get the garlic and spices infused into the broth. I usually simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Shred about 3 cups of meat from a previously cooked chicken; the chicken could have been baked or boiled, as long as the flavor is neutral.
Add the chicken to the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes until the chicken is warmed through.
Add salt and black pepper to taste, and remove the cinnamon stick from the broth.
Stir in the juice from 2 small limes, about 2 tablespoons, and the lime zest.
If you used store-bought broth, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil for a richer broth.
Ladle the soup broth and shredded chicken into a bowl. Add sliced or cubed avocado over the top, the cilantro and an extra slice of lime if desired.
Sprinkle the fried tortilla strips across the top; they will stay crispy until your last bite.
The avocado will not cook or fall apart; it just gets slightly warm and softens a bit.
Sopa de Lima is simple to throw together and is a great soup if you’re looking for something lighter to make going into the summer months. If you’d like to make this into a full meal, serve the soup over a bed of cooked white or brown rice.
I hope that this makes your weeknights easier and helps you to try something new while using up leftovers. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.