"Great" vs. "greatest" can be debated, but what's not debatable is that my family completely devoured a good-sized pot of this soup. Not even any leftovers for today's lunch. And it's unanimous that this was one of the best so far.
A little spicy, but not much. Its naturally soothing, creamy texture (with the welcome interruption of chicken chunks and cilantro snippets) belies its lack of any substantially fatty ingredients.
Make it. Eat it. You won't be sorry.
Serves, well, six or eight theoretically, but it was gone awful fast
Loosely inspired by a recipe from Splendid Soups: Recipes and Master Techniques for Making the World's Best Soups (thanks, Spence!), but of course I went wildly astray almost immediately
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, any egregiously fatty bits trimmed off
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound tomatillos, papery husks removed, roughly chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp hot sauce--optional but advisable--Drunken Angel, of course!
Crumbled queso fresco (or, in a pinch, I suppose, feta or even grated Monterey Jack), for serving
Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until well browned, about four or five minutes; flip and cook until other side is similarly well browned; remove from pot and reserve.
If there's a huge amount of fat in the pot for some reason, pour the excess off. That was not the case here, and so I soldiered on so as not to lose that lovely rendered fat and the wee toasty bits of pot-stickin' chicken.
Return pot to medium heat. Add onion and jalapenos; cook, stirring frequently, until onions are barely translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and salt and cook, stirring, one minute more.
Add broth and tomatillos. Return chicken to pot, laying it delicately atop the vegetable mixture so as to facilitate removal later.
Bring soup to a boil; cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until chicken is done but not dry and stringy and yecch.
Turn off heat. Remove chicken from pot; set aside. Carefully (remembering the lesson of the Tomato-Cilantro Soup!) ladle soup into blender, working in batches; cover blender lid with towel and blend until smooth. Return soup to pot.
Chop chicken into irregular, attractive pieces. Return to pot, along with cilantro; turn heat to medium-low and gently heat through. Whisk in the hot sauce as the soup heats; taste and correct seasoning as needed. (Mine needed nothing else; it was pretty darn good as it was.)
Serve with generous sprinklings of delicious, friable queso fresco atop each bowl. Excellent with corn cakes (yes, this was the second day in a row on which we had corn cakes).