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Later there’ll be storks in the sun watching the evening redden from Moncayo to Urbión–Antonio Machado

This Mexican stew is a result of the ancient love story between the traditional and the modern. It is a union of warring contraries with tomatillos, potatoes or yucca and strips of cactus paddle, garnished with slices of chorizo and cilantro. Wet and dry. Fire and water. Roots and leaves. Familiar and foreign. One cannot exist without the other. Sometimes one becomes the other and back again.

These warring contraries are very much an everyday human struggle as well and I’ve been trying to embrace that. I now know that it’s possible to want two opposite things at once. I know what it is to long for summer in winter and winter in summer. To want both adventure and routine. Stability and change. Attention and space. Such is the beautiful nature of life. This soup is a testament to complementary and flavorful opposites. In collecting ingredients for this stew, I had to make replacements, oddly in the direction of the more obscure. I wanted to replace the potatoes with yucca, but only found its unfamiliar cousin, the yacon. The nopalitos bring their own briny tang and and I added a little chorizo oil for flavor. It’s a refreshing, warm and hearty stew that will cool you down and also make you sweat.

You may want a shot of Mezcal to go with this or a fiery pulque. The combination will bring a visceral taste to opposite longings and for the moment you’ll be able to taste it all.

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Sopa de Nopal (Nopales and Tomatillo Stew)

adapted from Saveur

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 jalapeños, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 small white onion, quartered
  • 1 lb. white waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces or cassava (yucca) root or yacon.
  • 6 medium nopales (cactus pads), cleaned, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, and rinsed. You could also use two 29-oz. jars sliced nopalitos, rinsed and drained–however these taste brinier than if you use fresh. If you cannot find either, I think this soup would be wonderful with green bell peppers instead.
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 links chorizo, sliced
  • 1 lb chicken breast (optional)
  • 1 bunch cilantro

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Directions:

For the broth

Bring stock, tomatillos, garlic, jalapeños, and onion to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then working in batches, transfer vegetables and stock to a blender OR use a hand blender to purée until smooth and return to pan. Bring soup to a simmer over medium heat; add potatoes/yucca and cook until tender, about 18 minutes. Add cactus/or green pepper and cook until very tender, 15–17 minutes. Season soup with salt or pepper as needed and stir in half the chorizo. If you choose to leave out chorizo, you might want to get a smoky flavor by adding 1 tbs of Spanish smoked paprika.

For the chicken

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add chicken. Let cook for about 30 minutes. Remove chicken breasts from water and put into a large bowl. With two forks, shred chicken into pieces. It should come apart without much force. Add salt and pepper to taste

For the chorizo

Put the slices of chorizo in a pan over medium heat and cook for about 10 mins.

Assembly

Divide the shredded chicken between two or three bowls. Add the stew with a ladle. Garnish with the extra chorizo and cilantro.

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