One of the most famous soups in Mexico is Caldo Tlalpeño. It is one of my favorites too and I order it at Los Potrillos, Santa Fe, NM every time I go there. It is made up of chicken, chickpeas, various vegetables (carrots, zucchini, chayote squash, onions, garlic or tomatoes) and chicken broth. Then it is seasoned with epazote and chipotle chili (dried and smoked jalapeños). Oh, and then why not add a little avocado, grated cheese, and lime to the mix! Yum. It is comfort food at its greatest.
Mexican cuisine has a history of some 9000 years. Some say that Tlalpeño was made during the time of the Aztecs. Others say that it began in the early 1900’s as the trams passed through the largest borough of the Federal District of Mexico City – Tlalpan. There were many street vendors who made only appetizers except for one lady who made chicken soup. It was first called Tlalpan soup and then later morphed into Tlalpeño.
Another theory has it that the dictator Antonio López de Santa Ana was celebrating a little too hard at the festival for patron saint San Agustin de las Cuevas. He woke up with a hangover and asked his cook at his home in Tlalpan to make something that would help him feel better. The cook came up with a soup and when asked what it was the cook answered Caldo Tlalpeño to honor the district they were in. This all came to be known as a “come to life” broth.
Traditionally slow cooking chickpeas and chipotle peppers in a homemade chicken stock is best. But for cooks on the run there are some shortcuts that can be easily taken. If epazote cannot be found in your area, cilantro can be substituted. Also, chayote can be substituted with other types of squash as well.
1 ½ cups of chickpeas
2 skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
6 cups homemade or canned chicken broth
2 Zucchinis, diced
I Chayote squash, diced (optional)
1 can Chipotle peppers in Adobo
A handful of green beans
1 medium sautéed onion, small dice
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Epazote sprig (substitute cilantro)
5 oz of grated cheese that melts
Pepper and salt to taste (TT)
1 avocado, sliced
3 limes quartered
If you are not using canned chickpeas, soak for 8 hours over night and then cook in a slow cooker until soft. If using canned chickpeas, drain thoroughly.
Add chickpeas and chicken breast to chicken broth on high till boiling, then switch to low heat. Add zucchinis, chayote, chipotle, green beans, onions, garlic, epazote (if using cilantro, don’t cook. Just add at the end.) Cook for 25 minutes. Add cheese and salt and pepper.
Garnish with avocado and limes (and cilantro – optional.)