While hierbabuena is primarily used for tea, it is perfectly delicious in chicken soup. The first time I tried it this way I was very skeptical indeed. A friend who grew up here in Puebla ran out to my kitchen garden, plucked a sprig, and popped it into the caldo de pollo we were preparing before I could open my mouth to ask what he was doing. I was informed that his mother (one of the best cooks I know) always put hierbabuena in her caldo. My skepticism was cured when I tasted the final result, and now I always add a little spearmint to chicken soup.
- 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 lbs.) cut in pieces
- 1/2 large onion, stuck with two cloves
- 4 large garlic cloves (or to taste) peeled and cut in half
- 1 bay leaf
- 6-8 black peppercorns
- 2 celery ribs, with leaves
- 1 small bunch hierbabuena (spearmint)
- 2 carrots, cut in 1inch-long chunks
- 2 ears of corn, cut into 4 pieces each
- 2 chayotes, peeled and cut into 1inch-long chunks (you can use zucchini instead)
- salt to taste
Put the chicken in a large stockpot with the onion, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, celery ribs, carrots, half of the hierbabuena, salt, and water to cover.
Bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the chicken is tender. Remember to always remove the breast pieces first, or they will become rubbery. I always have the breast cut in four, a much more manageable size in a bowl of soup.
Remove the soup from the heat and strain it, saving the pieces of chicken and carrot and discarding the other seasoning ingredients.
Return the strained broth to the heat, bring to a boil and add the corn and chayote.
When the vegetables are tender, return the chicken and carrot pieces to the pot and simmer five minutes longer.
Serve the soup in deep bowls, with a piece of chicken, some of the vegetables, and a sprig of hierbabuena as a garnish in each.
This recipe serves 6-8 as a main course accompanied by salad and warm bolillos or French bread.
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