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Course: appetizer, main course
Total time: under 1 hour
Skill level: Easy
Cost: Inexpensive
Yield: Makes 6 servings
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One thing I miss about living in California is going out for inexpensive and wonderful Mexican food. I suppose a lot of it wasn’t totally authentic, but I’ll never forget the chicken enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce and sour cream. I think I’ve managed to capture the same tart flavor in this soup.


  • 1 4-pound chicken, quartered
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, papery husk removed, coarsely chopped, or 2 cups drained canned tomatillos, coarsely chopped
  • 2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth or water
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Sour cream
  • Grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese


SEASON the chicken with salt and pepper, then brown it on both sides in the butter or olive oil over high heat in a sauté pan just large enough to hold it in a single layer. When the chicken is well browned, after about 8 minutes on the skin side and 10 minutes on the flesh side, take it out of the pan and lightly sauté the onion and garlic in the fat left in the pan. (If the fat has burned, pour it out and add 2 tablespoons fresh oil or butter.)

RETURN the chicken to the pan along with the tomatillos, jalapeños, and broth. Cover the pan and simmer gently until the chicken is done—it will be firm to the touch—about 15 minutes.

TAKE the pan off the heat, remove the chicken, and let it cool for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the skin, pull off the chicken meat, cut it into bite-size pieces, and discard the bones. Skim off any fat or froth that has floated to the top of the soup.

WORK the ingredients in the pan through a food mill with a medium disk or puree them in a blender and strain through a medium-mesh strainer.

COMBINE the pureed tomatillos with the cilantro and chicken. Thin the soup with a little broth or water if it’s too thick. Season with salt and pepper, or cayenne if it needs more heat. Serve sour cream, grated cheese, or both.

SUGGESTIONS AND VARIATIONS I sometimes add a cup of corn kernels to Mexican soups because they go well with almost any Mexican ingredient. Just add the corn kernels along with the tomatillos and puree the mixture together.

Shelled and toasted pumpkin seeds (½ cup pureed in a blender with a little of the soup, added before straining) are also a typically Mexican touch; they’ll give the soup a distinctive flavor and also make it considerably thicker.

You may also want to experiment with adding dried chilies (see Ingredients chapter) to the soup shortly before serving.

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Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving

Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, but does not include Sour Cream or Grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese for serving.

771kcal (39%)
51mg (5%)
18mg (30%)
180mcg RAE (6%)
243mg (81%)
674mg (28%)
17g (85%)
53g (82%)
4mg (19%)