(Makes 6 quarts)
The ultimate Caribbean chicken soup!
Believe me, this is one extremely tasty and filling soup. The slight taste of vinegar really sets off your taste buds and also helps to preserve the soup. It’s like onion soup and chicken soup married together in chicken broth and many spices instead of beef broth. It becomes a subtle yet delicious and addicting dish. I’ve always disliked raw onions except in some dishes where finely chopped onions are needed, like salsas. But this soup renders the onions succulent, sweet and delicious. The first time I tried the more common Belizean-style escabeche made by my wife, I was instantly hooked after the first spoonful, but I knew there were a few improvements that could make it much better once I bit down on an allspice seed and almost choked on a chicken bone. I experimented on this dish off and on from 2004 to 2009 until I got it perfect. It’s a strange amalgam of many ingredients that defy understanding why it’s so good. You don’t learn these kinds of cultural anomalies by hopping off a cruise ship for a few hours or days just to say you’ve “been there.” You learn them by living with the natives for months or years.
Needed: 8-10 qt. stewpot
-3.5 – 4 lb. whole chicken
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-enough water to almost cover chicken for boiling
-2 cups seeded and diced green jalapenos (from the can is better than raw)
-6 cups Spanish (yellow) onion, quartered and sliced to 1/4″ thickness
-3/4 cup mild white vinegar or Apple Cider vinegar. 3% acidity only; 5% is too much — forget Heinz. I used Varinas brand in Belize, but doubt you can find that here in what used to be our United States. This is the key ingredient.
-2 tbsp salt
-1 tsp black pepper
-1/2 tsp curry powder
-dash crushed red pepper (more or less for desired heat–I use 2 tbsp per 6-qt)
-Bouquet Garni (*Chum Bag or Cheesecloth) to hold spices that are easily removed when done cooking)
-30 allspice seeds
-30 whole black peppercorns
-4 large bay leaves
-place these 3 items into bag (I use small plastic garlic sacks with a plastic twist tie)
I chop everything into small enough pieces so every spoonful contains some of each ingredient and broth. Belizeans use bone-in chicken and you have to pick out the allspice seeds, bay leafs, and peppercorns as you go. This is why my version is called “gourmet.” You can consume every last drop from my pot. Bite down one time on an allspice seed and your taste buds can’t taste anything else for quite a while. I fixed that with the bouquet garni.
-wash chicken well, trim off any excess fat and discard
-boil chicken for approx. 45 minutes in large pot with enough water to almost cover chicken
-while boiling, skim off and discard any foam that collects on top
-remove chicken and place in 350 degree oven in a baking pan
-bake for approx. 45 minutes, or until chicken is well done and skin is well browned
-add six quarts of water into clean stewpot and mark the 6 qt. line with permanent marker, then discard water
-strain chicken broth through a clean cloth into this clean stewpot
-while chicken is baking, tie peppercorns, bay leaves, and allspice in cheesecloth bag. Add to broth. I call this a chum bag, but chefs call it a Bouquet Garni
-add all other remaining ingredients to broth in stewpot
-cover stewpot and bring to a boil over high heat
-remove lid and simmer aggressively for about 2 hours
-scoop off and discard any oil/sludge that collects on top while cooking
-when chicken is done baking, let it cool, then de-skin it, debone it, and dice up meat and add to stewpot
-add enough water to bring the stewpot back up to the 6 qt. line
-continue to boil for another 1/2 hour scooping off any oils that rise to top of stewpot
-continue to add water as needed to keep level at 6 qt. line
-when done, remove and discard Bouquet Garni (chum bag)
-serve very hot with grill-toasted flour or soft corn tortillas. I tear them into pieces and toss them into my bowl like crackers.
I place the leftovers into 1-quart plastic freezer containers so all I have to do is toss the frozen quarts into a pot or microwave and melt them until they began to boil.
You can refrigerate the remainder for up to a week or more due to the vinegar which preserves the soup. A week later, it tastes even better. You can freeze it for up to a year or more and have the same results.
I’m so close to this dish and many more to come that I may be confusing some of you with the steps of my recipes by not filling in the gaps. I must confess that I spent several years developing recipes for a future restaurant in the Caribbean and I have written my recipes down hoping they would be understandable to anyone. The Belizeans loved my cooking and I used to sell American style pizzas made from scratch right out of my house.
P.S. Martha Stewart’s recipe is bull shit.