Mami and Me
I sometimes wonder what I would do if I didn’t have my mom.
It’s not so much that I need her in that everyday sense anymore. It’s just that she supplies so much fodder for my blog! I’m being completely honest here. (I know. Shallow.)
There are some things, of course, that I don’t write about, because I do love and honor her. But there are other times where it’s just too tempting….
Take, for example, the latest episode, which we’ll call, “You Can’t Make Soup.”
So, my mom was staying with us for a weekend. This happens at least once a month. And she is unquestionably an Opinionated Cuban Mother. (As am I, but that’s not important right now.)
Oh, and did I mention that she’ll be 96 in a few weeks?
Okay, so, we have my mom staying with us and it’s cold out and she kept saying this would be perfect weather to make chicken soup. Actually, she had no intention of making soup, she was hinting LOUDLY as only Cuban mothers can, that what she really wanted was for me to make the chicken soup.
Okay, so I love homemade chicken soup, too.
Let me clarify, I love MY homemade chicken soup, so I decided to go ahead and make it. I hauled her with me to the store to get the ingredients. (I know, “hauled” is a loaded word, but if you’ve ever traveled anywhere with a nonagenarian, even to the grocery store, you understand what I’m talking about.) In fact, the grocery store trip is another great Mami & me story, but I digress….
We get home and I park her in a chair at the kitchen table so she can keep me company (or so I thought) while I cooked. She was watching intently as I laid out the ingredients. “You’re not going to use cilantro in the soup, are you? I hate cilantro.”
With as much patience as I could muster, I explained the lovely qualities of good cilantro and that once you cook it, it loses it’s bite, but the flavor remains. She wasn’t believing me, and the cilantro went in after a lot of “harrumphing.” She concedes that her grandmother also used cilantro, but still…
“That’s too much cumin!” Nobody likes that much cumin!” I decided to take my chances with the cilantro and cumin. (But, to my credit I did manage to feel a little guilty.)
“Who adds yuca to a soup?” Obviously I do, but I decided to ignore the thinly veiled criticism and add the yuca anyway. It adds such a nice texture…oh, never mind.
When I added the ripe plantains, (Did I say you could watch me cook? Or make noise about everything I put into the pot? Don’t answer that! *sigh*) she made loud (loud!) disapproving noises. The plantains should be green and a little salty, she argued. I’m sure this scene has been played out between countless Cuban mothers and daughters many times.
Again, I took the high road and chose to let the final product become my personal defense.
I endured her criticism on through, “Are you washing the chicken now?”
“No… well, yes. I’m just cooling it so I can handle it.” All the way to “Lemon juice?” That doesn’t go into chicken soup! Everyone knows that!”
Apparently, I don’t know things that everyone else seems to know. (Yes, that was sarcastic. Shut up.)
But…I do know how to make a mean Cuban-style chicken soup.
She sacrificially tasted my soup…
“This is the best, most amazing chicken soup I’ve ever had!” I realized that that was as much of an apology as I was getting. I wondered if she just felt bad and was now trying to be polite.
Then she asked for seconds, which is when I knew I had truly won.
Cuban-style Chicken Soup
1 bunch green onions, chopped up
1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped up into small bits (unless you love cilantro, go mellow on this, but don’t skip it.)
1 Tbsp. cumin
3 Tbsp. olive oil ( for sautéing)
3 Tbsp. white flour
8 cups of chicken stock (2- 32 oz. containers)
8 chicken thighs (keep the skin and bones on for now, they add to the flavor)
1 yuca peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (I use frozen)
2 red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into cubes
2 ripe, cooked plantains (I use frozen – these add a surprising sweetness), sliced into rounds
6 oz. super thin fideo noodles. (again, go mellow on the noodles as they can easily take over the entire dish)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1. Sauté the green onions, cilantro, and cumin in olive oil. Quickly whisk in the flour.
Keep whisking to avoid lumps. (When the cilantro cooks, it looses it’s bite and leaves an incredible flavor. Don’t skip the cilantro!)
2. Immediately add 1 cup chicken stock, and continue to whisk until well blended.
3. Remove this mixture from the pot into a bowl and set aside.
4. Place chicken thighs and remaining chicken stock in an 8 quart stockpot.
Bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Add the yuca, potatoes, and plantains.
7. Simmer for another 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
8. Remove the chicken thighs from the soup and run under cold water in a colander to cool.
9. Skin and debone the soft chicken, manually shredding it into bite-size pieces.
10. Return the chicken to the chicken stock-onion-cilantro mixture.
11. Add the chicken-chicken stock-onion-cilantro mixture to the soup.
12. Stir in the fresh lemon juice and the noodles.
13. Continue cooking for at least 8 to 10 more minutes or until noodles are soft.
14. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
It turns out that chicken soup is very soothing to the nerves. Who knew?
(Recipe previously posted on Babalú blog.)