THE WASHINGTON POST – “Soup is a warm way of getting to know a culture and its people,” writes cookbook author Pati Jinich. She calls this vivid soup made with oysters and chipotles in adobo one of her all-time favourites.
Count us in as well as enthusiastic fans of the spicy-smoky base, plump oysters and soft-crisp texture, achieved with vegetables that are both pureed and left diced.
A little work is rewarded with lots of punch.
The recipe, which comes from Jinich’s latest cookbook, Treasures of the Mexican Table, is both a primer and a guide to more adventurous cooking.
The preface to her throat-tickling oyster soup teaches readers to cook the oysters gently and quickly, “so they taste and feel like a seafood version of foie gras.”
SOPA DE OSTION AL CHIPOTLE (CHIPOTLE OYSTER SOUP)
Vegetables can be diced up to one day ahead. Leftover soup can be refrigerated for up to three days without the oysters. Gently reheat over low heat. If planning to refrigerate the soup, consume all of the oysters and, if desired, start another batch of oysters the following day.
– One and a half pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled
– Three tablespoons vegetable oil
– One large white onion, finely chopped
– Five ribs finely chopped celery, divided
– Five medium carrots, finely chopped, divided
– Two large leeks, white and light green parts, well-rinsed and finely chopped, divided
– Five garlic cloves, finely chopped
– Three chipotles in adobo, finely chopped, plus one tablespoon of the sauce
– One dried chile de árbol, stemmed and chopped
– One pound shucked oysters with their juices
– Half teaspoon fine salt, or more to taste
– One teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
– Five cups shrimp, chicken or vegetable broth
– Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
– Lime wedges, for serving
Preheat the broiler, with the rack five to six inches from the heat source. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the tomatoes on top. Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, turning the tomatoes halfway through, or until charred and mushy. Remove from the oven. (Alternately, you can roast the tomatoes on a comal or in a large skillet over medium heat, turning them every four to five minutes, until soft and singed, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.)
When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, finely chop them and transfer to a one-and-a-half-quart bowl. Make sure to tip any juices from the baking sheet into the bowl.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, five to six minutes. Stir in two-thirds of each: celery, carrots and leeks, and cook until wilted, three to four minutes.
Clear a space in the middle of the pot and add the garlic, chipotles with the adobo sauce and chile de arbol. Cook, stirring, for one minute, then mix with the vegetables and cook for one more minute.
Add the tomatoes, the oyster juices, salt and oregano, bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture thickens a bit, six to seven minutes. Add the broth, bring to a simmer and cook until the color darkens and the soup thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.
Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Wash and dry the pot.
If you want a silky texture, place a sieve over the pot and strain the soup through it; otherwise, just return the soup to the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and add the remaining half cup of each celery, carrots and leeks. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked to al dente and the soup is a little thicker, four to five minutes. Stir in the shucked oysters and any remaining juices and cook until barely cooked through, about one minute. Turn off the heat.
Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with the cilantro and offer your guests lime wedges for squeezing in the soup.