Chicken soup… a meal that is universally soothing, comforting and must have countless variations around the world. This is my Caldo de Pollo from my grandmother. I can’t make it without thinking of when I was a little girl, watching my grandmother and mother butcher and dress their own chickens they had raised. I’ll spare you the details — I’m sure the internet has you covered if you want to know more. I can still see them standing in the backyard after the job was done. I’m not sure I have it in me to be able to do the same, but what I did learn was that the best Caldo de Pollo starts with a whole chicken and a love shared through cooking that my mother and grandmothers shared with me.
The whole chicken is important because you have white meat, dark meat and the bones, which gives the broth so much more flavor. However, I usually only just use half of a chicken for fewer servings.
Caldo de Pollo using half a chicken:
In a stock pot, place chicken, 6 cups of water, 4-5 cloves of garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Once the water comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. While the chicken is simmering, foam will form on the top. You can skim the foam and discard it.
Now this is where you have lots of freedom and an opportunity to clean out the fridge. I typically add any combination of the following vegetables: 1 zucchini, 1-2 potatoes (chunks), 1 small tomato (diced), 1 chayote squash, 1-2 carrots (sliced), ½ an onion, corn on the cob (cut in smaller ears), ¼ of a cabbage (cut in wedges).
In the photo above, I only had zucchini, cabbage, and tomatoes in the fridge, so that is all I used. If you add lots of vegetables and you want more broth, you may need to add more water and salt. You should taste your broth throughout cooking, and add salt as needed.
Once the chicken has simmered for 30 minutes, you may add your vegetables. I also add a ½ cup of uncooked rice and let everything continue cooking for at least 20 minutes (some people prefer to cook their rice separately, which is a good idea if you don’t want your rice to get mushy when you reheat the soup). In the last 10 minutes of cooking I add a ½ cup of roughly chopped cilantro.
I prefer to remove the chicken, debone it, and return it to the soup so it is easier to eat.
To me, what gives this Caldo de Pollo its Mexican flavor is the cilantro. When I sit down to eat it, I’ll enjoy it with a squeeze of lime, hot tomatillo salsa and fresh corn tortillas — just like I grew up enjoying it.
Kim Carrillo is an East Texan native. She grew up in Henderson and after having moved to other parts of Texas, decided to settle back among the pine trees. She attended Stephen F. Austin State University and The University of Texas at Austin. With her background in social work, she has worked in non-profits and higher education. She has recently become a food entrepreneur and works with her mom to provide Chelo’s Handmade Tortillas. This year, she and her husband, Matthew Carrillo, opened Texas Tortilla Kitchen. Kim believes food is a way to bring people together and nourish the heart and soul.
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