Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup

Verde chicken tortilla soup for the soul! 💚

As the weather gets colder and colder, nothing brings comfort like a bowl of soup. This verde chicken tortilla soup is full of warming flavors from roasted tomatillos and poblano peppers. 

It is fortified and deeply flavored with meat and bone broth made from a laying hen (also called a stewing hen) – a hen that is no longer laying eggs. I bought my laying hen from a local farm, she lived her whole life out in the sun on pasture, enriching the soil as she went along. All of that activity, sunlight, and a diet of grass and bugs makes the laying hen extremely flavorful. I was shocked the first time I tried it because it tastes so intensely and purely chicken-y.

The thing about laying hen is all of the exercise and aging makes the meat tough. Therefore, laying hen needs to be cooked low and slow with lots of moisture. This is the perfect opportunity to make bone broth (or technically bone stock because it includes meat 😋)! The meat is simply removed from the bone when it is tender enough to shred. 

The bone broth leftover needs to sit in the fridge overnight to allow the fat to gather and harden at the top of the container. The next day you simply remove this fat cap and use the broth as you would any other. Although the process is more time consuming than using a boxed stock, it is simple and mostly hands-off. The flavor is certainly worth it! If you cannot find a laying hen or do not want to bother, this recipe can be followed using cooked chicken and a pre-made stock or bone broth. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this verde chicken tortilla soup is the toppings! Green onions, cilantro, fresh sliced jalapeño, avocado, lime juice, fresh tortilla strips, and sour cream add so much dimension and lots of yummy textures. As you eat it and the flavors blend, it becomes even more delicious!

By using a laying hen in this soup, you will probably have about 4-8 cups of extra bone broth that can be frozen and used later. You can also save the chicken carcass to make broth in the future. For me, buying an animal that lived its life as it was meant to and supporting a local farm make me feel very grateful for this [delicious] way to be more connected to food. 


Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup

Servings: makes 12 cups

Time: one hour 

Ingredients:

  • meat from laying hen (about 4 packed cups)
  • 6 cups of laying hen bone broth (recipe follows)
  • 2 cups of yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 3 poblano peppers
  • 1 lb. of tomatillos, peeled and rinsed
  • 1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt (I recommend smoked if you have it)
  • cooking oil or butter
  • Optional toppings: 
    • fried tortilla strips
    • cilantro
    • jalapeño slices
    • green onion
    • diced avocado 
    • sour cream
    • lime juice

How-to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place poblanos and tomatillos on the baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook for about 8 minutes, flip, and cook for another 8-10 minutes until poblanos and tomatillos are blackened. 
  3. When cool enough to handle, peel outer skin off the poblanos and remove seeds and stems. 
  4. Pulse peeled and deseeded poblanos and all the tomatillos in a blender or food processor until mostly broken down, like a can of diced tomatoes. 
  5. Meanwhile, in a large pot, sauté the diced onion and garlic with some cooking oil or butter on medium until softened and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. 
  6. Add the cumin and stir to coat onions. Allow to cook another minute. 
  7. Pour in 6 cups of the chicken broth, beans, shredded chicken, and blended poblano and tomatillo mixture. 
  8. Add a generous pinch or two of salt (taste broth first and go from there). 
  9. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a steady simmer. 
  10. Cook until desired thickness is reached, keeping the pan uncovered. This helps the soup to thicken a bit and joins the flavors together. This is also the chance to soften up the chicken more, if needed. About 20-30 minutes will bring it all together. 
  11. Taste and add more salt. 
  12. Serve with toppings! 

Notes:

  • If your chicken is not as soft as you like, you can cook it again here in the soup. This makes the recipe forgiving and allows you to bring it to the texture you want. 
  • To make fresh fried tortilla strips (thick, crunchy, worth the effort) cut fresh corn tortillas into strips and slice longer strips in half. Heat oil in a sauté pan until the end of a wooden spoon sizzles. Throw in tortilla strips, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry for 2-3 minutes until darkened slightly but not brown. Remove to paper towels. Continue until all strips are fried in this manner, adding oil as needed. Sprinkle with salt and serve. 

Laying Hen Bone Broth

Servings: will vary by how much liquid you use and how much it reduces. My batch made about 12 cups

Time: 4-6 hours

Ingredients:

  • one laying (stewing) hen (about 2.5 pounds)
  • one yellow onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a handful of carrot ends (the tops you do not eat; or sub a carrot, chopped)
  • a celery bottom (the bottom you cut off; or sub 2 stalks of celery, chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • a bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

How-to:

  1. Add all ingredients to a stock pot or slow cooker. Cover with water. 
    • For the stove top: bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover. At a steady, low simmer, the hen should take about 6 hours. Exact time may vary because of temperature differences.
    • For a slow cooker: cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. My hen took 5 hours in my Vitaclay on ‘slow’ (a Vitaclay runs hotter than your average slow cooker). 
    • For both methods: the meat is ready when the skin begins to split and the meat is easily shredded with a fork. If you are not sure, shred some and wait for it to cool. Give it a taste – if it is too chewy and tough for your liking, cook longer. Keep your eye on it though, it can get too soft and lose the ‘meaty’ texture. 
  2. When chicken meat is done to your liking, remove the laying hen from the stock and set aside to cool. 
  3. Strain the broth and discard solids. 
  4. When cool enough to handle, remove all meat from the bones of the laying hen. You can shred by hand or remove large pieces and then chop into rough cubes with a knife. I did a bit of both methods. 
  5. Place broth in the fridge overnight. This allows the fat to congeal at the top of the jar or container. 
  6. The next day, scoop the fat from the top of the broth and discard. 

Note: You can save the hen carcass and use again to make bone broth! 

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