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Caldo de Pollo - Easy Economical, Exotic Comfort Food

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
With all the talk about broth, stock, stockpots, and what not going on around here lately, it got me thinking about soups.

Central-Americans, Mexicans and Mexican Americans eat a lot of caldos and cocidos, a one dish meal that lands somewhere between a soup and a stew. It's a really wonderful meal -- as good on a hot day as on a cold one. As good for lunch as for dinner.

I've written up a simple, but authentic version of a chicken soup/stew called caldo de pollo. It can be made in 45 minutes start to finish. The pot can be made well in advance, held and reheated for convenience; and leftovers -- well, you should be so lucky.

The ingredient list looks long, but remember that it's a one dish meal -- so everything besides dessert is in that list. Feel free to add or subtract as is convenient, and as tickles your fancy. For this type of dish, rules are like badges to bandidos. You remember the what the bandido said about badges from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, don't you? "Badges? We don't got to show you no stinkin' badges!"

Bi-lingual thought of the day: The Spanish word "caldo," and the English word "caludron," share a common root. Don't cackle while you stir, or people may think you're a bruja (or a brjuo, as the case may be).

Retail Therapy: If you enjoy Mexican food, it's worthwhile getting a tortilla basket or two and a couple of colorful towels for them. That way you can keep tortillas hot on the table and not run back and forth to the kitchen the way Mexican mothers do to make their kids feel guilty. I may not be Mexican, but I know mothers.


(8 portions, serves 4)

1-1/2 qts chicken stock (homemade, boxed, or "Better than Bullion")
1-1/2 quarts water
4 chicken leg quarters
2 whole carrots
2 potatoes
4 ears corn
1 chayote squash, or 2 medium zucchini
(Optional) 1-1/4 cup cabbage shredded
2 onions divided
2 sprigs spearmint
Mexican style hot sauce (Tapatio, Bufalo, Yucateca, other)
(Optional) 1-1/2 cups cooked, steamed, white rice or left over "Mexican" rice.
(Optional) Maggi
handful of fresh cilantro leaves
3 tbs dried Mexican oregano
2 avocados
2 lemons cut in 1/8 wedges, or 8 limes cut in half, or mixed lemons and limes
2 dozen corn tortillas warmed

Combine the water and the stock, add the chicken parts and bring the broth to a simmer. Allow to simmer until the soup starts to scum, and skim, periodically until it no longer produces scum (about 10 minutes after starting). Add salt to taste, leaving under-salted. Simmer an additional 10 minutes.

If you don't have left over cooked rice, make the rice with 1/2 cup long grain rice, 1 cup water and a tsp of salt. Make more or less rice according to your preference. (Personally, I'm happy with very little or no rice. The amount specified is typical.)

Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into quarters, the carrots into large coins, shuck the corn and break the cobs into halves, cut the squash into chunks too large to eat without cutting. Cut the 2 onions into 4 halves, and chop three of them into large dice, and reserve with the other vegetatbles. Chop the remaining half into fine dice, and reserve separately.

Add the mint and the vegetables to the soup (other than the fine-diced onion). Allow to simmer another 10 minutes.

Chop the cilantro with the reserved fine diced onion, until the onion is well minced and the mixture resembles a paste. Split and seed the avocados. Cut them into medium dice while still in the skin, then scoop the dice out with a spoon into a serving bowl. Salt the avocado lightly and squeeze some lemon or lime juice over it to keep it from darkening. Plate the limes, cilanto/onion mixture, and oregano by putting each condiment in its own serving bowl. Bring these to the table, along with the bottles of hot sauce and Maggi (if using). If you warm tortillas in the oven, start the process.

Remove the chicken quarters, cut them into individual legs and thighs, and return them to the pot. Check to make sure the thighs are fully cooked (they will be, but check anyway). If necessary continue cooking until the thighs are done. The potatoes should be barely cooked. Then add the rice and allow to simmer another 5 minutes.

If you warm tortillas on the stove top (best) or the microwave (better than the regular oven): Get started.

Finally, adjust the caldo for salt to its final level. Serve in large bowls.

The diners add condiments in whatever amounts they choose -- a pinch of this a pinch of that. Yes, the avocado goes right into the soup -- usually. Some diners prefer it on their tortillas. The freshness of the lemon and/or lime juices quickly disappears. Diners are encouraged to refresh the citrus several times as they eat. The hot sauce is used to brighten the flavors as well, the soup is usually not eaten very spicy. It is suave (swa-VAY = "smooth"), not picosa (pee-KO-sah = "spicy-hot"); comfort food, not a challenge.

Note: It's difficult to explain the importance of Maggi in Mexican and Central American culture. You never see it on restaurant tables, but it's probably in the kitchen. It's in nearly every home on the kitchen table, but seldom makes it to the dining room. Some families use it on everything, some can keep a small bottle for years without making a dent in it. If you eat a lot of authentic, not too upscale, Mexican food, you'll recognize the difference it makes as a sort of "so this is what was missing" moment. I'm not sure how it became popular. It was developed by or for Nestle as a substitute for soy sauce.

A tu probecha!

PS. I sometimes forget to say this, but the usual rules about sharing: If you want to share this recipe or repost it elsewhere, please attribute it to Boar D. Laze.

PPS. I'd be especially gratified if you could also mention that I've got a book in the eventual works: COOK FOOD GOOD: American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates.

PPS. Take a look at my blog. Please. Pretty please.
post #2 of 18
BDL - Thanks for the recipe. I definitely want to try it.

I'll shop for a stock pot. Since I would only be preparing for a small number of people, I figure I'd lean toward an 8 quart.
post #3 of 18
How big of a turkey do you cook at Thanksgiving. That's what I'd base my size decision around. Which usually means a 12 quart.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #4 of 18
We usually go to my in-laws for thanksgiving .:lips: (But thanks for the yardstick to use!)
post #5 of 18
I'm all over it! headed to the grocery store in an hour! Perfect for a Sunday dinner....
post #6 of 18
with the 1.5 cups cooked or uncooked?

making today...
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Cooked. It says so in the ingredient list. Use more, less or none, according to Honey's whim of iron. You've got to stop thinking for yourself. Get with it.

Some people and restaurants send last night's "Mexican Rice" for its last roundup in these types of soups. Personally, I don't like even as much rice as I specified in the recipe. Don't forget the spearmint (hierba buena).

Don't forget to pick up a six pack of Tecate a bunch of extra limes and some salt. Open the can, squeeze the lime juice around the hole, and sprinkle salt on it. Great on its own, a great tequila chaser. Much better than jamming a lime down the neck of a Corona bottle.

Have you ever tried pulque? Or mescal? Getting drunk on pulque which is not distilled but naturally fermented (or "rotten" if you prefer), is really a trip. Mescal's a lot like tequila but more so, and affordable. If you're a tequila drinker (I can't remember what's on your bar shelf), try backing it with sangrita (doctored tomato juice). Way cool.


PS ON EDIT: I made a few changes to the recipe, getting a little more specific about the rice and throwing in a little rap on Maggi. If you don't have a bottle at home, don't worry about it this time. Worth getting a small bottle to try, though.
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Considering your situation, think about one of those four piece sets. The four pieces are a spaghetti strainer, a steamer basket, a lid and the pot. 8 quarts is a good starter size. You don't need to obsess about quality -- stainless with an aluminum disk bottom will do you fine for this pot. If and when you find you need something better get an even less expensive 12 or 16 quart.


PS Go to the blog section and take a look at COOK FOOD GOOD. You're most definitely in the target audience.
post #9 of 18
thanks as far as the rice, I just didn't know if it was 1.5 cup yielded after it cooked or 1.5 cup before you cook it. Got it now. (i was askin' because the missus was excited about the rice part of the recipe ;) )

I live in mexi-jersey :) actually, I live in a little town in jersey that is an old imigrant town...and is just so great when it comes to Mexican, Brazillian, and Portugese food as well as Belarusian, Polish and Ukrainian. We have an entire Mexican supermarket smack in the middle of main st. next to a Polish resturant and a "authentic" mexican restaurant (well, more takeout, but has 5 BYOB pizza place style tables) with amazing mexican food. Lot's of polish deli's and portuese delis...2 of the best portuguese restaurants in NJ! and we are.....about 2 square miles!! (and my taxes are 30% of the surrounding towns!, and the school systems are better!)

SO rest assured, I aquired all the ingredients :)

Strange, and I know it's off thread, but most people don't know how good these places are because they are "afriad" to go in....lot's of people missing out.

I'd say my town is one of the better culinary towns in central NJ for provisions, and food!

quick question: Best way to heat up tortillas on the microwave with one of those plastic-type-material warmers?


another quick question: I have an 8 quart all-clad stock pot and a 12 quart cheaper one (no name 40$, but not TOO bad) what would be better for this?
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
You're going to be heating what? 6 tortillas. Put 3 tortillas in the warmer, then put a damp paper towel on top of them, then 3 more tortillas, than another damp paper towel, then one more tortilla. Place in the nuke, with the cover off, nuke at about 600 watts for a minute. Toss the top tortilla and both towels, cover and bring to the table. If the tortillas don't fit tightly in the warmer, cover before nuking.

However, with only two of you -- why not heat the tortillas two at a time on the two front burners? Takes about 10-20 seconds a side with the burners at medium low. You can do it when everything else is on the table. Preheat the burners for a minute before starting. Then heat each tortilla for a few seconds, turn and let them heat til they puff, then toss them into the holder. Cook an extra pair, just in case. Real men don't use tongs.

post #11 of 18
You might want to get even a little more specific on the Maggi, as Maggi is just the brand that makes a few different items. Perhaps Maggi "Seasoning Sauce" the European provisions place has a whole Maggi shelf actually, everything from Instant Spaetzle-in-a-box to a rack of seasonings written in German.
post #12 of 18
what kind of pan? and wont this toast them and dry them out? I like the smaller tortillas, so lots of room around the sides inside the warmer. Maybe more of us...Dining al fresco tonight so if my neighbor sees I'm eating something that resembles Mexican, him and his 10 brothers will surely be over to at the very least tell me how much better his mother makes it back home! hahaha.
post #13 of 18
Darn wish I would have read about the Sangrita earlier and been reminded! It's a common chaser to tequila at the Mexican bar on my street.

Tomato juice with a splash each of orange, grapefruit and lime and a few drops of hot sauce!! great chased to a ice cold shot of tequila! however, it's strange in the bar, they "sip" the shot, and go back and forth between sangrita.


one last question, the corn on the cob, keep it on the cob? and covered pot?
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Done and done.

post #15 of 18
Pan? What pan? You flop the tortilla directly on the burner. If you leave them on too long they will crisp up and dry out, which in this case is not a good thing. Oh, this assumes a gas stove, it just doesn't work the same on an electric element.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #16 of 18
Below is my interpretation and "execution" of BDL's recipe.

First we have our ingredients....

Pick your poison (or rather GREATNESS)

Now, I went a little overboard buying ingredients, however, I just wanted to show how cheap it CAN be. I bought every ingredient for the most part, with the exception of Rice, Carrots, and Potatoes, but I also bought a few "extra" things, a couple of sauces, tortilla warmer, some salsa dishes, some fruit, (and a Magazine for my DF! (Darling Fiance)). I also shopped at Wegmans, and should have just went to my local Mexican supermarket as of course they didn't have the Hot Sauce and Chayote.

So, if I didn't need a bunch of different hot sauces, a tortilla warmer, magazines, fruit, etc. it would have been about 25$ to feed at least 6.

an added bonus....
post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 

You're Killing Me


I love you, but you're killing me. How did it taste? Did DF like it? Will you be doing it again? How much tequila was drunk? How many brain cells destroyed? Is Maggi your new secret?


PS Congratulations on holding your knife right! Looks like a nice, relaxed pinch grip. Good claw shape with your off-hand, too.
post #18 of 18
It tasted better towards the end. Initially it was nothing to write home about, but about half way through, and a couple dabs of hot sauce, I almost couldn't stop eating it! I'm about to heat up some for lunch in a minute!

I'd make it again. for sure. Although Beautiful didn't care for the chayote much, especially the skin.

We tried two methods of heating tortillas, and I can honestly say that I will never ever ever ever ever not heat them on the stove again. ever.


you also described it well. It's perfect for hot weather, as well as just got that "feeling" when eating it.....

the oregano, and cilentro/onion were great compliments, along with the hotsauce, the dish just didn't feel 100%, when those were added to tasted better than 100%, the avocado, I didn't feel added much...and it was left pretty much untouched.

Beautiful would have liked more cabbage and more rice as well as some more potatoes, with a substitute for the Chayote, so that's how I'll make it next time......but I really feel like I was eating a "special" dish at El Tapatio the local hole in the wall menu is not in english people are afriad to go in place...

No tequila unfortunately, had some, but we didn't partake, perhaps when we make it again on a friday or saturday with our guests. A meal like this almost has to be eaten with more than 2 people!

Beautiful has taken a much bigger role in the kitchen, altough is still not confident about her knife skills .....I think she needs her own chef's knife.

as far as maggi, I've actually seen it in el tapatio and some peoples houses, so am familiar, but never had my own is....a key component. No secrets here though...I don't mind sharing them ;) ok....maybe a little secret.

one comment Beautiful made was "THe only thing better than jersey corn on the cob on the grill with lots of butter is Jersey corn on the cob, steamed and boiled in chicken stock and soup/vegetables!"
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