Tortilla Soup with Sugarcane-Marinated Chicken

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This dish combines Caribbean-flavored chicken with one of the classic soups of Mexico. Simple, nourishing, and restorative, it can be made well in advance—in fact, the chicken must marinate overnight—but the soup should be assembled at the table so that the guests fully experience its magical textures. Serve the soup in shallow bowls. So that the tortilla chips keep their crispness.

Recommended wine: A dry fine sherry or a light Chardonnay from California.


Cooking Methodbaking


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course


Moodadventurous, festive

Taste and Texturecrisp, garlicky, herby, savory

Type of Dishhot soup


  • One 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ recipe Sugarcane Marinade (below) 
  • ½ cup Roasted Garlic Oil or pure olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 9 cups Chicken Stock
  • 4 to 5 corn tortillas, cut into very thin strips
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and (at the last moment) diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 40 grape tomatoes, quartered, or 20 cherry tomatoes, each cut into 6 to 8 wedges
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro sprigs
  • 8 lime wedges (optional)
  • Sour cream for garnish
  • 1½ cups dark molasses
  • ¾ cup Spanish sherry vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup Creole mustard
  • 1½ cups top-quality canned tomato sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Scotch bonnet chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons peeled and minced ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg


  1. Make the marinade: In a food processor, combine all the ingredients, and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate until needed; this keeps for 1 month.

  2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Place them in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in 1½ cups of the marinade. Seal the bag and shake to coat the chicken well. Refrigerate overnight to marinate.

  3. The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Take the chicken out of the marinade and place it in a roasting pan. Cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh. Let cool slightly.

  5. When the chicken is just cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, and shred it with your fingers (you should get 3 to 4 cups). Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a saucepan, and toss with the remaining ¾ cup marinade. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the liquid reduces to the consistency of a stew, 10 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

  6. Pour 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil into a heavy pot over very low heat, add the garlic, and slowly sauté for about 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown. Add the jalapeños and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, turn off the heat, and cover to keep warm.

  7. Heat ¼ cup of the garlic oil in a large heavy skillet until hot. Scatter in the tortilla strips and cook until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.

  8. In a bowl, toss the avocados, poblanos, tomatoes, and cilantro with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper.

  9. Spoon the chicken into eight soup bowls, then sprinkle the avocado salad around it. Ladle the broth over the chicken and avocado mixture. Garnish with the corn tortilla strips and squeeze a lime wedge, if desired, into each bowl. Serve with sour cream on the side.


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