Mexican Comfort Food: Sopa Seca

March 26, 2013

According to celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez, sopa seca (which means dry soup) is a foreign food that's been given "a Latin twist, subbing cilantro for basil, cotija or queso fresco for Parmesan, and spice for subtlety."  Sopa seca is traditional for many Mexican families' Easter celebration. Try Chef Sánchez's rendition along with his Roasted Tomato-Chile de Arbol Salsa.

Aarón Sánchez's Sopa Seca 
Serves 2 as a side or snack

¼ cup canola oil
1 cup small shaped pasta such as melon seeds, orzo, or alphabets
½ cup roasted tomato-chile de arbol salsa
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
A handful of shredded cotija or queso fresco (preferably the Cacique brand), or pecorino, Parmesan, or lightly salty feta

1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or medium pot over medium-high heat until it ripples. Add the pasta and cook, stirring constantly, until the pasta is golden, about 3 minutes.

2. Scoop out and discard 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the Roasted Tomato-Chile de Árbol Salsa and cook for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time. Pour in the chicken stock and let the liquid come to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook, stirring once in a while, until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Divide the pasta between two bowls and garnish with the cilantro and cheese.

Roasted Tomato-Chile de Arbol Salsa

Makes 2 cups
1 pound plum tomatoes (about 4)
3-6 chiles de árbol, depending on how spicy you like it
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the boiler.

2. Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil, until the tomatoes are nice and charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Take the tomatoes out, let them cool just until you can handle them, slip off the skins, and cut out the tough cores. Transfer the tomatoes to a big bowl (don’t you dare forget the tomato juice that has leaked out and reduced to awesomeness on the baking sheet), then roughly chop them.

3. While the tomatoes are broiling, heat a dry skillet over medium heat and toast the chiles (in batches, if necessary), flipping them over occasionally, until they just begin to smoke, about 5 minutes. Set them aside in a bowl.

4. Put the olive oil, onion, and garlic in a saucepan, set it over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes. Add the toasted chiles, tomatoes and 2 cups of water, bring to a simmer and cook for another 12 minutes, so the flavors come together. Let it cool a bit.

5. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper and puree until the mixture is very smooth.

6. Pour the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

7. Store the salsa in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to a week, or in the freezer for a month.