photograph: Tyllie Barbosa

The tomatillo, a cousin of the tomato, is most often encountered as the main ingredient in salsa verde, the green Mexican sauce. But here the versatile berry lends its characteristic tang to a richly satisfying chicken soup developed by Jason Handelman, the executive chef at Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois St.; 312-410-7301). The soup, sold by the quart and at the café, is one of the market's most popular.

Fox & Obel's Chicken Tomatillo Soup (Serves 20)

  • 1 pound poblano peppers
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound Spanish or yellow onions, diced
  • 2 pounds tomatillos, papery husks removed, washed, and quartered
  • 5 cloves garlic, left whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 ounce thyme (leaves only)
  • 4 quarts good-quality chicken stock
  • 1 three-pound chicken
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro (leaves only)
  • Salt and pepper

(1) Roast the poblanos over a gas flame or the grill. Char the peppers until they are black all over. Place them in a bowl while hot and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool.

(2) Wash, dry, and trim the green onions. Drizzle a tablespoon of oil over them and toss with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, until lightly charred on the outside and softened. Set aside.

(3) Remove the stem and seeds from the peppers, peel off the charred skins, and set aside.

(4) Heat a large soup pot (at least 6-quart capacity) over high heat and add the remaining vegetable oil. Then add the diced onions, tomatillos, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, one tablespoon salt, and one teaspoon pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the vegetables have given off some of their liquids.

(5) Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the whole raw chicken to the soup and simmer uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and the bay leaf.

(6) While the chicken is cooling, add the peppers (taste them before adding to judge their heat level and adjust the amount according to your taste), green onions, and cilantro to the soup. Purée the soup with an immersion blender until smooth (you may use a regular blender, but do so carefully in small batches. Hot liquids will spin explosively when blended).

(7) Pull all the meat off the chicken, discarding the bones and skin. Shred the chicken by hand and add the meat back to the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil, adjust the seasoning, and serve.