Friday, March 12, 2010

Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup

When I first started this blog, I made mention of my grandmother and my adoration for her soups. It's true. I was not just fond of Grandma's soup. I was obsessed with it. Ok, not really obsessed, but when I was a kid I was rather picky (or rather my family didn't share my taste buds, thus giving the appearance I was picky...though there was plenty I ate, granted there was plenty I didn't), so the fact that I loved Grandma's soup so much was often topic of conversation. One year my mom even gave me a book called Grandma's Soup. Ok, since I have always been a little food obsessed, I guess you could call it obsessed, since it was what I looked forward to most when I would go to Grandma's house.

I never understand the people who don't like hot liquids. I've known not just one person like this, but several. They don't like soup, or coffee, or tea, or anything of that sort. I am exactly the opposite. I love hot liquids! They warm. They comfort. They generally taste delicious. It baffles me. Ironically, one of the people I know like that used to work in a coffee shop. He loved the smell.

In junior high my best friend's mom would always jokingly call me a cheap date because when they would take me out to dinner with them I would invariably order soup and some kind of appetizer or salad. I didn't do it to be a considerate guest of their generosity. I did it because that's what I wanted most off the menu. I guess it was a win-win for both parties. You know, come to think of it, I still do that.

Somehow, I went a long span without much soup. I didn't eat the cans of Amy's low sodium lentil and vegetable I always have stashed in my pantry for emergencies (ridiculously healthy and delicious!). I didn't order soups out at restaurants because I stopped eating out much at restaurants. And I didn't make much soup at home. I don't know what was wrong with me. Maybe because it was summer? But it started before summer. And soup is still good in the summer. Whatever the reason, it seems to have cleared up on its own (yes, I liken it to a disorder or disease). I have been craving soups left and right lately. And if you haven't yet guessed from the title of the post (I know, I can be a bit too subtle sometimes), I'm going to share one with you now!

Even though I do different foods for lunch and dinner, I still like to have an overall theme to all the food I cook each week. Is that weird? Not only does it allow me and Husband to mix and match how we see fit, it also somehow feels wrong to have, say, Mexican food for lunch and Indian food for dinner. Ok, it's weird. I know. At least you don't have to live with me.

So last week I was craving Mexican, and soup, and so I did the natural thing and made a chicken tortilla soup. And I totally came up with the recipe on my own. No help. No stealing. No adaptation. But really, tortilla soup is ridiculously easy to make, so that's not much of a boast. I really wanted the chicken flavor to come through in this soup, so I used only the dark meat from a rotisserie chicken (you may recall I used the white meat in the Mexican lasagna).

My mother may have just fainted in disbelief upon reading that sentence, as I always hated chicken with a passion when I was a kid...and teenager...and adult...

I would definitely recommend using dark meat. This is a very simple soup that really counts on the flavor from the chicken. You wouldn't want to disappoint the soup now, would you?

Everything in the soup is standard fair: onions, jalapeno, Mexican spices, tomatoes, chicken broth, etc., except you'll notice I added a little brown rice. I didn't intend this, originally. I had about a cup of leftover brown rice from the Mexican lasagna, so I figured I'd go ahead and throw it in the soup with everything else. Heck, it's what my grandma would have done! And in hindsight, I was really glad I did. Both Husband and I agreed the rice was a great addition to the soup. It provided more substance and texture without really altering the flavor.

Definitely don't skip (or skimp!) on the lime juice and cilantro. The lime just takes the soup to a whole other level. It would be kind of ho-hum, but with the lime the flavors just really come together into all sorts of deliciousness. Promise. A ditto for the cilantro, but to a lesser degree, as it should be. Cilantro shouldn't be in your face. It would be rude.

I used crumbled blue corn tortilla chips and slices of avocado for the topping. I have a serious relationship going on with blue corn tortilla chips. They are so tasty. As is avocado. Buttery and yummy. Sometimes garnishes are so worth it.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

makes about 8 servings

1TB olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
6 tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 TB ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 jalapeno, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded chicken (I used the dark meat from a rotisserie chicken)
4-6 cups chicken broth
1 can pinto beans
1 cup cooked brown rice (optional)
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
crumbled tortilla chips
sliced avocado for garnish

  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the chile powder, cayenne, paprika, coriander, and salt and pepper, stir and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the jalapeno and chicken.
  2. Add the chicken broth, enough to get the consistency you want. I used the full 6 cups. Add the pinto beans and brown rice, if using. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Stir in lime juice and cilantro. Sprinkle with crumbled tortilla chips and thin slices of avocado, or any garnish desired.

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