Chicken Tortilla Soup

Last week, while reviewing a local Mexican food restaurant, I tried their tortilla soup and it was really good, but completely different from what I’m used to tasting.  This of course, inspired me to cook up a batch of my own and share with you.

One of the things I like about tortilla soup is the spice, the melting cheese and tortilla strips, topped with fresh avocado and sour cream, its like an enchilada in a soup bowl.  I don’t make this often, because I tend to make a large batches of soup and freeze it and since you need to have freshly grated cheese, avocado, sour cream and crispy just fried tortilla strips, this soup calls to be eaten on day one.  HOWEVER, there is no reason not to make up a big batch, freeze it up then pair it with the fresh toppings as you see fit.

My version also calls for working with dried chili peppers, the large red ones that you see in bagged or in bulk in Latin food markets or in the Latin food section in most markets.  I currently have two bags, one marked California chilis and one marked Mexican chilis and they both appear to be the same.  Large red chilis, like a Big Jim variety, ripen on the vine till red and then dried.

I love working with these, as rehydrated they provide incredible flavor and make the base for many dishes, enchiladas, soups, tamale fillings, sauces and even beef stew, which I will provide in my next blog.  You really need to get some of these, I’ll never be without them in my pantry again.

Chicken Tortilla Soup – By Debra Crawford, serves 6

Finished Soup

4 Red Chili peppers, large variety, dried
2 Cups boiling water

3 – 6 ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 ” chunks
1 – Cup yellow onions, diced
2 – Stalks celery, sliced thin
3 – Cloves garlic, minced
3 – Medium Carrots, diced
3 – Medium Mexican squash – diced (or zucchini)
1 – Medium Jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed, minced
2 – Tablespoons olive oil
1 -14-ounce can tomatoes in juice
32 – Ounce chicken broth
1/4 Cup fresh cilantro minced, (save 1/2 for garnish)
2 – Teaspoon cumin
1 – Teaspoon paprika
1 – Teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and Pepper

1 – Ripe Avocado, cubed (for garnish)
1 – Cup grated Cheddar cheese (for garnish)
Fried Tortilla strips (see below for recipe)
Lime Slices

Break off stems of chili peppers and place in a medium bowl.  Cover with the boiling water and let rehydrate for 1 hour.  When rehydrated, pour the mixture into a blender and add the canned tomatoes.  Puree thoroughly.  This will be your chili sauce base. Set aside.

Toss chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, the cumin, paprika and dried oregano.  In large heavy gauge soup pot, heat olive oil and saute chicken and spices until lightly brown, but not cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Remove chicken from pot. Set aside.

In same pot, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and saute onion and celery for 5 minutes to soften, add garlic and jalapeno, cook one minute more. *NOTE: If you want a thicker broth you can this some or all of this mixture to the chili sauce base and puree.  This will give your soup a creamy thick broth.

Add back chicken, the chili sauce and 32 ounce of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then set to simmer for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, add carrots, squash and 1/2 of the cilantro.  Simmer 15 minutes more until vegetables are tender.

To serve, ladle soup into bowl, top with tortilla strips, grated cheese, diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream and cilantro.  Squeeze a lime section over the top and enjoy!

Tortilla Soup Ingredients
Tortilla strips
10 – Prepared corn tortillas
2 –   Cups corn or canola oil
In small frying pan or pot, add oil.  Make sure it does not come up higher than 1/2 of the depth of the pot to avoid boil overs.  Heat on medium high until a piece of tortilla dropped into the oil begins to immediately sizzle.
Slice the stack of  tortillas in half.  Stack on top and slice into 1/4 – 1/2″ strips.  Fry in batches a handful at a time until golden.  Drain on paper towels and serve on soup as directed above.
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