Golden Chicken and Sweet Plantain Sopa

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

My good friend Norman Van Aken is one of the great chefs of Miami Beach. He’s known for his imaginative cooking style that combines the flavors of Key West, Cuba, and the Caribbean. He created this soup especially for this book during one of his cooking classes. Annatto seeds (or achiote) can be purchased at Latin American grocery stores. You may wish to garnish the soup further with a dollop of sour cream and a few thinly sliced, crisp fried plantain chips.

NotesTo prepare the soup without the half-and-half or cream, thoroughly stir in two pureed or mashed plantains for a more substantial texture.

Serves4 to 6


Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer, main course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Mealdinner, lunch


Taste and Texturecreamy, fruity, garlicky, herby, meaty, savory, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishchicken soup


  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Salt
  • 2 large skinless and boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup Annatto Oil (recipe follows)
  • 1 large, very ripe plantain, peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely diced leeks, white part only
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrots
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers (habanera chiles), stemmed and seeded
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, washed, dried, and finely chopped
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed and strained orange juice
  • 4½ cups Basic Chicken Broth
  • 2 cups half and half or cream
  • ¼ cup annatto seeds
  • 2 cups olive oil


  1. Make the Annatto Oil: Place the annatto seeds in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat for 30 seconds. Gradually add the olive oil and slowly cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to steep about for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the seeds. Pour the oil into a bottle or jar and store tightly closed in a cool place out of the sunlight. Makes 2 Cups

  2. Heat a small skillet. When a drop of water sizzles on the bottom of the pan, add the cumin and pepper and toast about 1 minute. Let cool and combine with salt to taste. Sprinkle the mixture on both sides of the chicken. Place the chicken on a plate and drizzle with the annatto oil, turning the chicken several times to coat. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour, to allow the oil to deeply color the chicken.

  3. Meanwhile, sprinkle the plantain slices with a pinch of salt, sugar, and cayenne. Place a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and butter. Sauté the plantains until golden on both sides. Add the leeks, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and chiles. Stir, and cook until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned. If necessary, add a small amount of oil to the pan. Add the saffron, cilantro, and orange juice. Stir in the chicken broth. Lower the heat and simmer 10 to 12 minutes, stirring often.

  4. Pour the soup in small batches into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return to the pot, add the half-and-half or cream, and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

  5. Place the chicken in a nonstick skillet and sauté over medium heat about 3 minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Remove, cool slightly, and cut into bite-size pieces.

  6. Gently reheat the soup until it’s warm but not boiling and ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with the chicken and serve.


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