September 1, 2011

Tortilla Soup

I am a soup addict. Every weekend I’ll make a huge pot and eat it for lunch throughout the week. My soup phases have become a way of marking time and seasons – last winter I made a lot of chicken noodle soup, butternut squash soup, and carrot ginger soup. Roasted red pepper soup reminds me of living in Berkeley two years ago, as the red peppers at the farmer’s market were too beautiful not to buy. This summer I’m all about zucchini green chile, cream of cauliflower, and cream of spinach soup.  Last night I made a new soup – roasted tomato and eggplant, with lots of garlic. It’s pretty good. I think I’ll add it into the regular rotation.

photo by Elise Bauer

One of my favorite soups fits perfectly into our Modern Mexico destination, and I thought I’d share my favorite version of the recipe. Tortilla Soup is one of those soups that is flexible – it has a list of ingredients, but you can add and remove things depending on what you have in the kitchen. I love the extra step of making my own tortilla chips.

This recipe is by the wonderful Elise Bauer, from her site Simply Recipes. Almost all of my soup recipes have originated from her website, though many I’ve changed slightly over time. All parentheses below are my notes.

Ingredients:

  • 6 6-inch corn tortillas, preferably a little old and dried out
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, peanut oil, other high smoke-point oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I love garlic so usually quadruple this.)
  • 1 medium Anaheim, poblano or jalapeño chile, seeded, veins removed, chopped. (If you can find New Mexican green chiles these are my favorite. Roast them and remove the skin and seeds while wearing gloves).
  • 4 cups chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (I once tried fresh which was nice and made the soup lighter, but doesn’t haves as much flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (boil chicken until cooked, shred with fork)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (I love cilantro so I use a full cup)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

 

1 If you are starting with somewhat old, dried out tortillas, great. If not and you are starting with relatively fresh tortillas, put them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 200°F for 10-15 minutes to dry them out a bit. It is best to start with tortillas that don’t have a lot of moisture in them. Cut tortillas in half, and then cut the halves into 1/4-inch wide strips. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a 3-quart pot. Working in three batches, fry the tortilla strips in the oil, until lightly browned and crisp. Remove the tortilla strips from the pan and let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.

2 Add the chopped onions to the pan, cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped chile and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until the onions and chiles have softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the broth, tomatoes, and salt. Increase the heat to high, heat until the soup begins to boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook until heated through.

3 To serve, pit, peel, and cut the avocado into 1-inch pieces. Divide half of tortilla strips among 4 individual serving bowls; ladle in soup. Top with avocado and cheese; garnish with remaining tortilla strips and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Yield: Serves 4.