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Tomatillo-Chicken Soup

This Tex-Mex soup is light, piquant, and wonderfully sour--and an extraordinary appetite stimulant for a rich meal to follow. It's beautiful in flat soup bowls--and truly unusual on the palate. Serve hot to 6 as a first course.

Garnish: sour cream and cilantro leaves

Pound the chicken breasts lightly then saute over high heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven in the oil until both sides are browned--about 2 minutes a side. Remove the chicken and reserve.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute until golden--then add the tomatillos, jalapenos, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Puree, solids first, and taste for heat. Return to pot and reheat. Taste, and if it's not piquant enough, add some cayenne or pepper sauce until it suits you.

Slice the chicken thinly, then shred to bite size and add to the soup. When ready to serve, stir in the minced cilantro and ladle into bowls. Put a dollop of sour cream on each portion, let it melt a bit, then give it a swirl, top each with a single cilantro leaf and serve immediately.