Good For What Ails You

We’ve had a pretty sickly household lately; both Evan and My Girl are chomping on antibiotics. I have been able to claim a number of honors: healthiest person in the house, person who uses the least Kleenex, and best cook. That means I’ve been doing double duty with the chicken soup front. I started off with a basic chicken soup (chicken breast, carrots, celery, onion), which was good for the onset of the afflictions, but by day three it was time to pick things up a bit. I dug out an old recipe for “Sopa de Tortilla.”

Back when I was young(er), I used to go plays at American Conservatory Theater (ACT) or The Curren in San Francisco. There was an affordable little soup place right across the street, and it became a regular part of the whole theater going experience (a mad dash for coconut macaroons at intermission was also a part of this, but—sadly—macaroons don’t make it into this meal).

Tortilla Soup, based on the one from Salmagundi’s Restaurant

3 pounds chicken pieces
4 quarts water
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (1-pound) can whole peeled tomatoes(chopped up in the can a bit), undrained
1 onion, choped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn
4 green onions, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup cooked rice
1 Tablespoon chopped coriander

To Serve:
Corn tortillas
Corn oil

Grated cheese (Jack, Cheddar)

Combine chicken and water in stockpot. Make a bouquet garni of the peppercorns, coriander seeds, garlic, and any inner leaves from the celery. Cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes. Skim as necessary. Remove chicken from broth and let cool.

Toast cumin, coriander, and cayenne in small skillet. Be careful not to let it burn, but just to turn to a little shade darker. Add to stock.
Add tomatoes, onion, green pepper and minced garlic; cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Add corn and green onion and simmer 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, skin and bone chicken. Dice meat into 1-inch pieces. Add to broth with rice heat through.

Heat about 1 1/2 inches of corn oil in a skillet. Let oil get fairly hot. Cut corn tortillas into strips and fry a few at a time into tortilla chip strips. Let drain on paper towels.

Put cheese at the bottom of the bowl. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with tortilla chips and fresh cilantro.

Everyone was happy eating the soup. Quiet cheers were heard as the two sniffled and coughed their way back to bed.


Do you know this place?

You should! It's a fabulous cookbook store on Lexington Ave. in New York City. If you're not fortunate enough to be able to stop by, get on their e-mailing list. Every once in a while they send a list of interesting cookbooks, and most of the authors don't even have TV shows. That's something!

For example:

The paperback edition of the latest collection of Thorne's thoughtful ruminations on cooking, ranging from marmalade and anchovies to improvised breakfasts. p. $15.00

Joan Santanach, editor; Robin Vogelzang, translator. THE BOOK OF SENT SOVÍ.
The first English rendition of an important, anonymous culinary text from 14th-century Catalonia. This is a glimpse at Spanish court food before the arrival of New World ingredients such as tomatoes, potatoes or peppers. The original Catalan text is included, rendered in contemporary spellings. p. $34.95

Amanda Hesser, editor. EAT, MEMORY.
This collection of food-related essays from The New York Times Magazine does not recycle old standards. Instead, it features a wide range of contributors, from the expected (Dan Barber, R.W. Apple) to the surprising (Tucker Carlson, Pico Iyer). Among the others: Dorothy Allison, John Burnham Schwartz, Gabrielle Hamilton, Jon Robin Baitz. cl. $24.95

Kelly Alexander and Cynthia Harris. HOMETOWN APPETITES.
In the 1950s and 60s Clementine Paddleford was a household name in America, writing on food-particularly American regional food-for the New York Herald Tribune. Alexander, a former editor at Saveur, and Harris, an archivist who oversees Paddleford's manuscripts, argue convincingly that this forgotten pioneer's adventurous, engaging prose and life story deserve renewed recognition. Serious fun. b-&-w photos. cl. $27.50