By Angela Denstad Stigeler
As the first frost of autumn begins to settle, my soup cravings really ramp up, sending me in search of all manner of savory broths. With an early pumpkin harvest this year to boot, I’ve been haunted by the flavors of a soup made long ago, from a magazine long since recycled. Thanks to some careful internet searching, it’s at my fingertips again. It contains all “three sisters” of the Native Americans—corn, beans and squash—as well as a smoky chili base and a big hit of lime. As a perfect send-off of summer, this hot broth is cooled by a garnish of avocado that turns a lovely bright green in the bowl. It’s a very satisfying soup that you’ll want to keep track of all year.
Chicken and Pumpkin in Chipotle Lime Broth
1 pound fresh pumpkin or winter squash
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 quarts unsalted chicken broth
2 bone-in split chicken breasts, about 10 ounces each, skin removed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 chipotle chile pepper in adobo*
Juice of 1 lime
2 limes, sliced into wedges
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 ripe avocado
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a large rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Slice the pumpkin into wedges, peel with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1-inch dice. Toss the pumpkin cubes in an additional tablespoon of oil and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and sauté the onion until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute. Add the broth and bring it to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the breasts are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.
When cool enough to handle, pull the chicken off the bones and shred the flesh.
Slice the chipotle chili in half, remove the seeds and slice it crosswise into thin strips. Add the chili to the broth, along with the corn, black beans, pumpkin and shredded chicken. Simmer 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the lime juice and salt to taste.
Just before serving, stir the cilantro into the soup and cut the avocado into wedges. Place a piece of avocado in each bowl and ladle the broth on top. Pass the lime wedges separately.
*Chipotle chilies in adobo can be found in cans in the ethnic food isle. Since they’re always used in small quantities, spoon them out onto waxed paper, keeping each chili separate with a bit of the sauce and freeze. Store frozen in a container until needed.