Roasted Poblano Chicken Soup is officially my new favorite soup.
I think I personally ate all the leftovers and that NEVER happens in our house.
This fantastic recipe comes from my friend Nikolay who is an amazing clarinetist and cook. Funny how those two things seem to go together amongst my friends. He stayed at our house a few weeks ago between gigs and rattled off this recipe right off the top of his head. I think every guest should bring a recipe. That’s how I learned to make this awesome fudge…that recipe came from a trombone player!
Roasted poblano peppers are the secret to this soup. Not terribly spicy, poplanos develop a deeper flavor when roasted. Roasting adds an extra step to the recipe, but it is SO worth it.
Here’s what you need:
Poblano Peppers, Chicken, Red Bell Peppers, Onion, Garlic, Lime, Canned Corn (or frozen), Cilantro, Chicken Broth, Olive Oil, Sweet Paprika, Smoked Paprika, Cumin, Heavy Cream (not pictured), Salt & Pepper.
Also recommended – sour cream, corn chips, or corn tortillas for garnish/dipping. (not shown)
Did someone say chicken?
I have an assortment of chicken parts that were languishing in my freezer – 1 huge split breast half, and a couple legs and thighs. You’ll want around 3 pounds of chicken. I have removed the skin from the breast and thighs just to cut down on the fat and make things a little healthier.
Season the chicken with a little cumin, sweet paprika, salt & pepper. (Probably 1 teaspoon each but no need to really measure, just sprinkle some on there and go.)
Massage the spices into the chicken so each piece is nicely coated.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the chicken pieces, about 3 minutes per side.
A hint to browning any meat is that if it sticks to the pan when you try to turn it, it’s not ready yet. Give it another minute or so and then turn it and you’ll find a nicely seared surface.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside. Don’t worry that it’s not fully cooked, we will be adding it back to the soup in a minute.
Add the onions and red bell peppers to the pan and sauté them 5 minutes so they are tender but not browned. Then add the chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika. Stir the spices into the vegetables to allow them to “bloom” or become extra fragrant.
Depending on the brand, smoked paprika can really vary in how spicy it is. Start with a small amount, taste, and add more if you want to spice things up. I ended up adding a bit more – about 1 teaspoon total.
After 1-2 minutes, add the chicken pieces back to the pot. Be sure to add any juices that have accumulated on the plate while the chicken has been resting.
Add 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water so the chicken is mostly submerged. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes to cook the chicken.
While the soup is happily cooking away, you can roast the poblano peppers. (Note: you can also do this step ahead if you are pressed for time or don’t want to multi-task.)
Poblanos are a very dark green, mild chile orignially from Mexico. They are much milder than their cousins the jalapeno and even milder (and more flavorful) when roasted. Look for them in the produce section near the other hot peppers. They might look a lot like regular green bell peppers but poblanos tend to be a bit smaller, darker, and have a pointy bottom end. Choose 4 nice big poblano peppers for this soup.
To roast the peppers, I like to plop mine right on the hot gas grill. Put them on the grate over a high flame so that the skin of the pepper turns black and blisters. Use tongs to turn the peppers so that all of the sides get really blackened and almost no green shows through. If you don’t have a grill, you can also roast poblanos on a baking sheet under the oven broiler or even right on top of a gas stovetop burner. Obviously you need to be very careful if you are roasting them indoors and on the stove top, but with the grill you can walk away and come back at 4-5 minute intervals and turn the peppers.
When the peppers are fully roasted and blackened, remove them from the grill or oven and place them in a ziplock bag to steam. This helps release the skin from the flesh of the pepper. You can also put them in a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap if you don’t have a zipper bag.
Set the bag of peppers aside to steam for at least 10 minutes. The longer they steam and the more they cool, the easier they are to peel.
Even though poblanos are pretty mild as far as chilis go, I like to wear disposable laytex gloves so I don’t get prickly fingers. That’s totally me being whimpy but you won’t ever catch me rubbing my eye with peppery hands either.
Use your fingers to gently remove the outer roasted peel from the flesh of the pepper. You can also use a paper towel to help scrape away any stray bits but PLEASE do not run the peppers under water to peel them.
Once the pepper has been peeled, cut it open and remove the core, seeds, and any thick membranes that are inside.
Give the peeled and seeded peppers a rough chop. No need for perfection here. You can see a few seeds have crept in and a few bits of peel are hanging on. It’s soup, it’s totally fine.
Back to the pot of soup! After 30 minutes of cooking, remove the chicken pieces to a plate and allow them to cool.
Add 1 (14 oz) can of corn to the pot. You could also use 1 cup of frozen corn.
Add the poblano peppers and stir to combine.
You could stop here and you’d have some really great southwestern vegetable soup. But it gets even better. Use an immersion blender or traditional blender to blend up about half of the soup. If you’re using an immersion blender (possibly my favorite kitchen gadget), you can blend the soup right in the pot.
Blend until the soup starts to thicken but you can still see big, recognizable pieces of the veggies. If you are using a regular blender (or as I like the call it, the Margarita Blender), ladle soup into the blender container only half full as hot liquid expands as you blend it. You don’t want a soup explosion.
When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove it from the bones and shred it with your fingers.
Add the shredded chicken to the soup pot and stir to combine.
The soup can be held on a warm burner at this point until you are ready to eat. You can even make this in advance, refrigerate and reheat.
When you are ready to eat, to make things just a bit more smooth, add ¼-½ cup of heavy cream. Once you add the cream, for the best texture, be sure your soup does NOT return to a boil.
When you are ready to serve, add the zest and juice from 1 lime. If cilantro is your thing, (yes, it is!) chop up a big handful (3/4 cup) and add it to the soup. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Serve each bowl with a dollop of sour cream.
Nikolay suggests that you also top it with some crushed tortilla chips. Since I didn’t have any chips and we are big corn tortilla fans, I served mine with some warm white corn tortillas rolled up and and ready to dunk.
I love friends with good recipes. We might have to start a new “Nikolay’s Spicy Soups” section because last week he made a pot of spicy shrimp & corn chowder. I’ll try to hustle that recipe out of him next!
Here’s the recipe: Adapted from Nikolay Blagov