Chicken, Plantain, Corn, and Yuca Soup
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 55 minutes Cook Time: 55 minutes
This soups is inspired by an Aztec corn, yuca, and plaintain soup. Plantains are still served in soups in Central America. This version exemplifies what hearty, soul-warming food can be with a few simple ingredients and the magic of one hour of cooking time. Freeze this soup in single-serving containers before you add the noodles, and it’s a meal in minutes.
16 cups low-sodium chicken broth (4 quarts/128 ounces)
6½ pounds chicken parts, skin removed
1 large bunch fresh cilantro
1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 fresh bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2½ cups)
6 leeks, white and light green portions, cut into ½-inch rounds, washed and soaked in cold water (about 5 cups, see Kitchen Tips)
6 stalks celery, including leaves, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
1 (2½-pound) sugar pumpkin, peeled, or butternut squash, or Kuri squash, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces yuca root (cassava), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)
2 semi-ripe, yellow and mottled plantains, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups, see Kitchen Tips)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from about 4 fresh ears of corn, see Kitchen Tips)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 ounces uncooked fideo (fidelini) pasta (see Kitchen Tips)
2 cups cooked hominy
(use either or both)
- Pour the chicken broth into a large stockpot set over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, with no trace of pink or red visible. With a slotted spoon, tongs, or a spider, transfer the chicken to a bowl, reserving the broth in the pot. When the meat is cool enough to touch, pull the meat off the bones and cut into bite-sized pieces. Discard the bones (or freeze and save for a homemade chicken broth). Cover the chicken meat with about 1 cup of the warm broth and lightly cover with foil. Set aside.
- Cut the stems off the cilantro and parsley, reserving the leaves. Place all of the stems, along with the bay leaves and black peppercorns on a piece of cheesecloth and tie into a small sack or sachet. Place into the broth.
- Add the carrots, leeks, celery, pumpkin or squash, yuca, and plantains and stir. Increase the heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the yuca and plantains are both soft, cooked fully, and the tip of sharp knife goes through easily.
- With a slotted spoon, remove the cheesecloth sack from the pot and discard. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl. Degrease the soup by skimming off all the accumulated fat and scum on the top with a spoon, and return the vegetables to the stockpot. Add the corn, salt, chicken and if you are using it, the pasta and hominy. Stir, and cook to heat through; if you are using pasta, return the soup to simmer and cook for 6 minutes or until softened. Serve hot, garnished with the reserved cilantro and parsley leaves.
- If you haven’t cooked with leeks before, you need to know a few things: they’re delicious, but they absorb an amazing amount of soil as they grow, so you’ll need to wash them extremely well. First, trim off the tough outer leaves and cut off the root ends. Cut the leeks into rounds and place in a bowl with enough water to cover. Wash well, separating the interior layers with your fingertips to help them release the soil. Keep washing until they are perfectly clean; the dirt should fall to the bottom of the bowl, while the leeks float to the surface. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and set aside (Don’t drain by pouring the water out of the bowl over them or you will be pouring the dirt back onto them.) If necessary, repeat the process until all the soil has been washed off. Rinse the bowl thoroughly, fill with water, return the leeks to the bowl and soak until you are ready to use them.
- Make sure the plantains are neither green nor black. Mottled is best. You will get a subtle sweetness and they will be easy to peel, but they will still hold their shape.
- If you can’t find yuca fresh or frozen, you can use 2 waxy potatoes and 2 turnips, both peeled.The soup won’t be quite the the same, but it will be yummy in its own right.
- To cut the kernels off a fresh ear of corn, shuck it well and place it on a work surface. Cut it in half crosswise. Stand it on the work surface, cut-side-down, and with a sharp knife, cut downward to remove the kernels.
- If you can’t find fideos, you can use medium or thick spaghetti that has been broken up into small pieces.