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Yucatan Robust

October 07, 1998|DONNA DEANE | DEANE is director of The Times Test Kitchen

In Mexico, Central America and South America, chicken soup is often made with more than just chicken and rice or chicken and potatoes. Yuca and other tubers go into the mix, sometimes even sweet potatoes. Corn is a common addition too.

In this chicken soup, I've drawn my inspiration from sopa de lima, the classic soup of the Yucatan, and other Latin American sopas. It's a full-flavored meal that is still low in fat thanks to the use of low-sodium nonfat chicken broth and chicken breast meat, the least fatty part of the bird.

Garlic and onion are roasted to give the broth a more substantial taste. Thyme, cumin seeds and Mexican oregano are the aromatics. Roasted yams add a touch of sweetness and a sense of "meatiness" to the soup.

Instead of corn on the cob, I sprinkle the soup with a little roasted dried corn for crunch and sweetness. The corn may be found in 3-ounce packages often near the dried chiles in the produce sections of most supermarkets.

Chilling the broth several hours or overnight helps reduce the fat even more because the fat, after rising to the top and solidifying during refrigeration, can be removed easily.



1 head garlic, peel left on, halved crosswise

1/2 onion, outer peel left on, quartered

Nonstick cooking spray or olive oil in mister

Coarse salt

2 to 3 branches thyme

2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans low-sodium nonfat chicken broth

4 cups water

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 pound chicken breasts

2 sweet potatoes

4 cups cooked rice

6 tablespoons dried roasted sweet corn

Cilantro sprigs

Serve this soup with lime wedges and corn tortillas.

Place garlic and onion in baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or light mist of olive oil. Spray vegetables with nonstick cooking spray or light mist of olive oil, place in baking dish and sprinkle with salt to taste. Add thyme branches. Roast at 375 degrees until vegetables begin to brown and are tender, about 30 minutes.

Bring chicken broth, water, roasted garlic and onion, cumin seeds and oregano to boil in large pot. Add chicken and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to cook until meat is tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch slices and arrange in single layer on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or light mist of olive oil. Lightly spray potatoes with nonstick cooking spray or light mist of olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt to taste. Roast at 500 degrees until tender and browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn potatoes half way through roasting.

Remove chicken from broth when cooked and allow to cool. Remove skin and bones from meat and discard. Cut remaining meat into slices. Strain broth.

To serve, spoon cooked rice into bowl. Arrange few slices chicken in bowl and top with broth. Add few slices roasted sweet potato and sprinkle with corn kernels and cilantro leaves.

6 servings. Each serving:

334 calories; 166 mg sodium; 29 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 56 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 0.66 gram fiber.

* Alec Karros platter from Freehand, Los Angeles.

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