Roasted Colombian Chicken Soup and Rice

tonyr_cook_k  Tony writes: I’m into roasted soups lately. The technique sounds exotic (which is nice), but it’s really simple (which is even better). The premise: use the oven to “sear” the base for a soup (the meats and veggies) rather than searing it in batches on the stove top. The results are as good as this shortcut is quick. The oven browns the meat and veggies beautifully, building an intense flavor base without the hassle of the stove-top sear-and-reserve. The soup comes together quickly after roasting: chop up the roasted ingredients and then simmer until the mixture melds into a rich broth. The method is easily adaptable to all sorts of flavors and ingredients, though my latest adventures involve mimicking a hardy Colombian chicken soup I learned from b.good prep cook extraordinaire Marta. It’s a simple warming broth that is just the thing as we prepare to descend into the depths of winter.

Chicken soup, but Colombian: This soup’s flavor palette isn’t unduly exotic. A sprinkling of cumin on the roasted chicken offers some spice. The roasted onions and carrots  create a good base. And the addition of starches (see below) thickens the broth, giving the soup substance. A garnish of cilantro sprigs, some roasted jalapeno, and a squeeze of fresh lime complete the Latin theme.

Double starch: I know it’s kinda going against the gastronomic grain to double down on carbs these days, but it’s getting cold outside and the addition of rice and potato is a traditional Colombian method to add heft to a basic chicken soup. Each leeches off some starch and the result is a pleasant texture somewhere between a broth and a stew.  The corn, though neither in-season nor a thickening agent, gives the soup some color and sweetness.

The Recipe (Serves 6)

1. Prep the chicken and vegetables: Heat the oven to 450F. Rinse 1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs and pat dry with paper towel. Toss with 1 tsp. kosher salt1 tsp. ground cumin1/2 tsp. black pepper and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Slice 1 Spanish onion into 1/2-inch wedges. Peel 2 large carrots and 1 medium Russet potato and cut into 3/4-inch cubes.

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2. Roast until brownedScatter the onion, carrots, potato, and 1 jalapeno (whole) on a large rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Set the chicken atop the vegetables. Transfer to the oven and roast until the chicken browns and becomes firm to the touch and the vegetables brown and soften, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

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3. Simmer and serve: Slice the chicken int0 1-inch pieces and coarsely chop the onions and jalapeno. Transfer to a medium pot along with the carrots, potatoes, 2 ears corn (cut into 1-inch pieces) and 4 cups chicken broth (or cold water). Stir in 1/2 cup rice (preferably a long grain white) and 2 bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice plumps and becomes tender and the broth thickens and intensifies, about 30 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper (if you used water, season the broth generously) and serve garnished with 1 cup cilantro sprigs and 1 lime (cut into wedges).

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