Sopa de Pollo with Plantain Dumplings
This is not your grandmother’s chicken soup and dumpling recipe, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a Cuban grandmother. With its long simmering time and the addition of calabaza, a tiny orange-and-white squash, this is a wonderful way to warm up on a chilly day. The additional of Bijol, a traditional Cuban blend of ground achiote, cumin and corn flour, infuses the soup with a pleasant yellow color, but if you don’t have a Latin specialty market in the neighborhood, a pinch of turmeric makes a good substitute. The plantain dumplings are a lovely combination of sweet and savory, but they do not hold well. If you have leftover soup, the dumplings will completely disintegrate overnight. If you are not planning to eat all the soup in one go, add only enough dumplings to suit your hunger pangs, then freeze the soup without dumplings and whip them up whenever you’re ready to dive into the leftovers.
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick
- 2 carrots, sliced 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick
- 4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
- 2 1/2 quarts (2.5 l) chicken stock
- 2 cups (10 oz./310 g) calabaza squash, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) dice
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. Bijol (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
For the plantain dumplings:
- 2 ripe plantains, peeled
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
In a large pot over high heat, combine the chicken, onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool slightly. Using 2 fork, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Return the chicken to the pot and add the squash, tomatoes, cumin and Bijol. Simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, make the dumplings: Place the plantains in a microwave-safe bowl with 2 tsp. water and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave until very soft, about 2 minutes. (If you don’t have a microwave, place the plantains in a fry pan with 1/3 cup/80 ml water, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium heat until the plantains are soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Don’t use any more water than this; the plantain's sweetness will leach out into the water.) Sprinkle the plantains with the salt and pepper and mash them with a fork until smooth. Roll the mashed plantain into smooth balls about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
Drop the plantain dumplings into the soup and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Recipe adapted from Cuba! Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen, by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy