I’ve always been more of a salad straight onto the entree kind of gal. I recognize the nutritive value of soup, but most soups leave me feeling kind of “meh”.
Tortilla soup – now that’s a different story. Maybe one of the reasons I love it (besides the chile goodness) is that I get to garnish it with my favorite salad-y kind of things- avocados, tomato and onion laden pico de gallo, cilantro – you get the idea. And then I finish it all off with fried tortilla strips, one of my very favorite things (well, chips are a favorite, but these are mini chips, right?). And you even get to drizzle sour cream into the soup. I mean, what could be better than that?
While staying overnight in Cancun on my way to and from Havana a month ago, I ate at the hotel’s restaurant where the breakfast buffet included shredded chicken. The chicken was so juicy and flavorful, that when I returned I consulted Rick Bayless’ classic (and now updated) Authentic Mexican 20th Anniversary Ed: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico for any clues on how to achieve this. Bayless writes “unlike the free-ranging Mexican chicken, American “hot-house” chicken needs to be carefully timed… so that it comes out tender but moist”. He quarters the chicken then employs the technique of simmering first the chicken thighs with the aromatics, vegetables and herbs in a large pot of water, partially covered for 10 minutes, then adds the breasts to the pot and simmers them (again partially covered) for another 13 minutes. He then removes the pot from the heat and allows the chicken to cool in the broth for an hour. BTW, he adds that most Mexican broths aren’t as rich as French stocks, and that a really strong stock can unbalance the flavor. My two cents – it would sure be great to have free range chickens readily available to us here in the States.
I hope you’ll give tortilla soup (just in time for Cinco de Mayo) a try.
- 7 cups chicken broth, preferable home made
- 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes with puree (use a half cup more of you prefer a less strong chile taste)
- 3 dried ancho or New Mexico chilles, stemmed, seeded and deveined (I used the last of my Hatch chiles from Melissa’s Fresh Produce that traveled with me from L.A.)
- 6 tortillas (1 for thickening soup)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- Kernels from 1 large ear of corn
- 1 medium to large zucchini, diced
- Sea salt to taste
- @1 1/2 cups vegetable oil for frying
- Dry one tortilla in a low temperature oven ( about 250 degrees) for a couple of minutes.
- Heat @1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan, then add the chiles, frying them until they become blistered and change colors, about 20-30 seconds. Remove the chiles, setting them aside. Add a bit more oil to the pan, if needed, for sauteing the onions.
- Sauté the onions in the oil until the onions are tender and barely browned. Stir in the oregano and ground cumin. Add the garlic cloves, cooking until softened.
- Add the chiles, onion, garlic and the dried tortilla to a blender with about one cup of the chicken broth and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture into the rest of the chicken broth, and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and corn to the soup and cook for another 10 minutes, or so. Add sea salt, to taste.
- Serve garnished with a healthy handful of the shredded chicken and other garnishes.
Fried tortilla strips
Shredded chicken meat
Queso Fresco, crumbled
Pico de Gallo
A squeeze of lime, if desired
Yield: 6-8 servings