Caldo Tlalpeño. Photo: Flickr

The managing editor of Salon, Joseph Neese, happens to be the grandson of a woman from Merida.

And that grandmother, Elena Narvaez Neese, is sharing her recipe for caldo tlalpeño, which Joseph says should be in every cook’s repertoire.

“Looking back, I can’t believe how lucky I was to have grown up on caldo tlalpeño instead of chicken and noodle soup,” says Neese.

The hearty flavor of this dish is achieved by slow-cooking chick peas and chipotle peppers in chicken stock. The creamy and nutty taste of the chick peas perfectly cuts the spicy and smoky flavor of the chipotle chiles, and the result is one truly bold flavor pairing, he says.

“The caldo she prepared for me growing up contains carrots and onions. It’s similar to the one you’ll find on the menu at any Sanborn’s in Mexico,” says Joseph. “But Raúl, my roommate who hails from the mountain city of Monterrey, grew up eating squash in his caldo. Green beans are also a common ingredient in other parts of the country.”

Add green beans or zucchini to the recipe if you prefer, and skip the chicken altogether and use vegetable stock for a vegetarian or vegan option.

Here’s the recipe, from Salon.com:

Elena’s Caldo Tlalpeño

From the kitchen of Elena Narvaez Neese

Yields 2 1/2 quarts

For the soup:

  • 1 hearty chicken breast
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of chick peas (or about 1 can)
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic (or about three large cloves)
  • 2/3 cup of carrots (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup of Spanish onions (diced)
  • 2 chipotle chiles (seeds removed)
  • 2 tablespoons of cilantro (diced)
  • 1 epazote sprig
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

For serving:

  • 1 cup of white rice (cooked)
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 lemon (sliced)
  • 1 tomato (diced)
  • Mozzarella cheese (shredded)

Instructions:

  1. Put the chicken stock, the chick peas and the garlic into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, cover and boil for 20 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked.
  3. Carefully remove the chicken, shred the meat and put it aside on a plate.
  4. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a frying pan. Add the carrots and onion, and sauté the vegetables for three minutes. (Do not overcook them.)
  5. Add the vegetables to the broth, along with the chipotle, epazote and salt. Cover the broth with a lid and slowly cook it for 30 more minutes. Add the cilantro when done, and taste for salt.
  6. Divide the shredded chicken and a few slice of avocado among each soup bowl before before adding broth to them.
  7. Serve the cheese, lemons, rice and tomatoes on the side, and guests can garnish and flavor their bowl of soup as they desire.

Reminder: Be careful when handling the chipotle peppers, as they are very hot. Wear gloves and/or wash your hands well after handling them.

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