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Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken

(Sopa de Lima)

This is a nontraditional recipe of a traditional Yucatan (that is to say, Mayan) soup. It's wonderful--heady, light, but filling. Not spicy hot at all, either--just perfectly tangy and piquant. Serve hot to 6 as a substantial first course--or to 4 as lunch. To go traditional, substitute 3 chicken gizzards and 6 chopped chicken livers for the chicken breast.

Garnish: 6 tortillas, cut into thin strips and fried crisp; 1 lime

In a large saucepan, heat the lard or oil, then saute the onion until soft. Add the green pepper and stir for a minute, then add the tomato and, turning up the heat, cook down for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano chilies, the stock, and the lime juice (reserving the lime shell)--bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add the lime shell, and simmer for 2 minutes.

At that time, halve the chicken breast, pound down, and put into the soup to simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, until tender. (If you decide to go traditional, simmer the gizzard beforehand in salted water for about 30 minutes--then trim and slice and add to the soup with the chopped livers, which you'll simmer from 5-10 minutes.)

While the soup is simmering, heat lard or oil in a skillet to a depth of about 1/4 inch. When hot, saute the tortilla strips in batches, flipping until they are crisp, then draining on paper towels. Also, cut 6 little decorative slices of lime from the remaining lime.

When the chicken is done, remove it and slice into fine strips. Return to the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve the soup, ladle into flat soup bowls, Squeeze fresh lime into each bowl, top with crispy tortillas, and put the little reserved lime slices on the flat rims of the bowls. Serve hot immediately.