foodie friday: tortilla soup

This is a big favorite of mine, I’ve been making it for over 5 years now. The recipe is pretty versatile — you can cut it in half to make less soup if you like. I have used all kinds of chicken from frozen chicken breasts tossed in then shredded after cooking to left over chicken scraps from a whole chicken and once even canned chicken — it all works. Just cook longer if the meat is uncooked or frozen. I’ve also used fresh chopped tomatos, etc. You can make this as spicy as you like by altering the amounts of cayenne pepper. Toppings are optional. The soup freezes wonderfully and I like to make up a batch and freeze up individual servings to take in for lunch later on.

8 tablespoons Canola oil
5 10″ to 12″ corn tortillas
1 onion
6 garlic cloves
1 small bunch of cilantro
2 – 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock
14 ounces of canned or frozen corn
3/4 – 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 – 1 Tablespoon chili powder
4 bay leaves
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or try thighs
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
juice from 1 lime

So, prep: Chopped up onion in bowl, olive oil at the ready. Another bowl with minced garlic. An opened can diced tomatoes. Bowl of the spices (minus cayenne pepper). Bowl of chopped cilantro. A 32oz package of chicken stock is 4c, that’s ready & opened. Shredded tortillas in bowl. Frozen corn in bowl. What else?

Oh, yes, sliced up tortilla strips in another bowl, with salt shaker. And a big soup pot. You could fry up the tortilla strips in the soup pot and then proceed with the soup, for a one dish meal, or do the strips in another frying pan for a two dish meal. On the other hand, this one uses a lot of bowls, so I can’t see that it’s all that much better to save on a frying pan or not.

I fried up the tortilla strips first, patting them dry on a paper towel & salting them lightly. They’ll fry quickly, take them off when they turn golden. In the mean time I was letting the oil in the soup pot heat up. When I was done with the tortilla strips, I put them in a bowl & covered them up. It’s also easy to fry them up while the chicken is cooking, later on instead of at first.

Fry onions in soup pot. When they’re tender, toss in the minced garlic and fry a little more. After that, dump in the shredded tortilla — it will already smell like tortilla soup at this point! When that’s cooked a bit, throw in the cilantro for another minute.

Now you can toss in the tomatoes, broth, and spices. Stir this up, and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and throw in your chicken, corn, and cayenne. If it’s leftover cooked chicken, shred it then put it in. If you’re cooking the chicken, just throw it in to cook. You’ll take it out in about 20 minutes, shred it & get rid of the bones, and then put it back in. Taste the soup and add the lime and more spices if you like.

Now while the soup’s cooking, clean everything up you’ve got, fry up the strips if you haven’t already and then grate some cheddar cheese into a bowl, chop up fresh avocadoes into another bowl. Have these two bowls plus the one with the tortilla strips handy on the table. (You will also add a bowl of sour cream, but that should stay in the fridge until soup is served.)

Once the chicken’s all cooked, you can serve. But this dish is flexible, and you can keep it on a super low simmer (or simmer/off/simmer/off as you go) for a while. If it reduces, add a bit of water or more chicken stock. It’s quite forgiving of the exact time, which is nice.

When you serve it, ladle the soup out in bowls, sprinkle fried tortilla strips on top, then a dollop of sour cream, grated cheese and avocados on top. This is very hearty, makes a meal of itself and it’s great on a cold winter night.

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