I scribbled it out in an email for a dear friend a couple of years ago after I brought a pot of soup to a potluck meal. The use of the word “ish” along with whole heads of garlic and plenty of cilantro also seem common among my everyday recipes – who has time for exact measurements and shouldn’t everything begin and end with garlic and cilantro, respectively?
Bone broth, of course, makes the cut as does a combination of homegrown and store-bought staples. I suppose it represents the days of the in-between that I frequent; this space in which we work for money to build homestead infrastructure so that we don’t need money so much anymore.
It’s awkward and complicated and… not at all what many people imagine our life to actually be. Some days we haul dirt and pitch hay and milk goats all day. Some days we stare at computer screens while the other is in the trenches juggling the parenting and homesteading and off-grid living all on their own. It’s almost never pretty but it is the process and that process is gold.
Getting back to this recipe… I found it the other day along with the photo I took to accompany it. I wrote it out just days before Ruthie turned one, months before I found out we were expecting baby Joshua, and one day before I turned 32. That was a year and a half ago.
In that time much has changed. I am beginning to find gray hairs, if ever I meet a mirror. I noticed the same of Stewart’s hair when he trusted me with the scissors. We now kiss five little ones goodnight, one of whom is threatening to outgrow me anytime. Three goats, at least double the chickens, and a three-acre pasture are now a part of our homestead.
Still, much remains the same. We’re still a long way from growing much of our own food. Right now, though, we do have a few roosters to knock off, there are greens galore in the garden, and garlic and cilantro are either in the garden or in the harvest basket. A pot of soup can heal just about anything and is always the easiest way to feed our growing crowd. And so, even in the heat of summer, it is a constant in our weekly meals.
I’m afraid I ruin this vignette completely, however, in admitting that we are out of lard. As they say, I guess the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.
Garlic & Cilantro Mexican Chicken Soup
- 1/4 cup lard
- 2 lb chicken thighs breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 large onions, diced
- 6 stalks celery, diced
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 32(ish) oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 quarts broth
- 5 cups prepared beans
- 1-2 bunches collard greens, chopped into 1” pieces
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne, depending on how spicy you want it
- juice of 1-2 limes or lemons
- 1 bunch cilantro, minced, plus more for serving
- salt to taste
Heat the lard in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken, working in batches, until browned. Remove to a platter and add onion, celery, garlic, and carrots. Cook several minutes or until onions begin to wilt. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, broth, prepared beans, collards, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Return chicken to the pot.
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover partially and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste. Add additional cayenne, if desired. Serve with cilantro, avocado, sour cream, tortillas, or your favorite Mexican-inspired toppings.