It’s officially winter in my neck of the woods but you wouldn’t know it taking a look at the temperatures and the general absence of snow. Trust me, I’m not mad at any of that. I like the idea of the seasons changing and the picturesque quality of freshly fallen snow, but when it comes down to it I’m happy to simply flirt with the idea or perhaps just watch snow on TV. I hate being cold. I hate slush. I hate wet toes. You would think that I wasn’t born and raised in Canada.
This year I decided to embrace winter early on. I bought new winter boots back in September or October and of course haven’t gotten a chance to wear them. I even decided to buy ice skates so that I would have a reason to frolic in winter’s bounty. I haven’t skated yet but I plan on it.
With that said, while we’re in “soup season” it really hasn’t been chilly enough to really relish in the joys of soup season. Sure, I’ve been making soup but I haven’t had to come home from a day out in –15C weather to a steaming bowl of goodness.
So I bring you a soup from the land of where it doesn’t get that cold, Mexico. Soups from warm weather climates always intrigue me. Jamaicans love to cook up a bunch of soup that is of course loaded with pepper. Hot liquid, hot pepper, hot climate… I’ll never quite understand it. Mexico apparently is on the same program.
I think I literally heard someone say the words tortilla soup the other day and I couldn’t get it out of my head and had to make a pot. I’ve never made tortilla soup before and to be honest, I probably haven’t eaten it that many times. Something about a spicy broth loaded with tender chicken, creamy avocado and crunchy tortillas just had me jonesing. Luckily I had this recipe from the NY Times Magazine from Mark Bittman in my arsenal that sounded great.
This soup is definitely on the simple side. You make broth using chicken thighs and legs and beef bones so that you get nice depth in flavour. The chicken that you use to make the stock gets taken off the bone and becomes the chicken in the soup. You also fry up some tortillas to be used as a topping for the soup and also as a thickener in the soup, a technique that I’ve never really used before but totally worked and was great.
I was totally amazed by my soup! You know when you eat something and it totally just hits the spot? That’s totally what happened with this soup. I’m such a fan of spicy, soupy goodness. One thing to note, the recipe calls for two tablespoons of canned chipotles in adobo. It doesn’t say anything about seeding the peppers. This is my gift to you: SEED THE PEPPERS. I like spicy but this was too spicy. Next time I’d probably seed the peppers and use about a tablespoon.
2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs or legs
1 pound beef bones, or a cut of beef with a lot of bone in it (like short ribs), optional
1 medium onion, quartered (leave the skin on)
1 head garlic, halved across the equator (leave the skin on)
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or more as needed
6 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons canned chipotle chilies in adobo, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and cubed
4 to 8 ounces plain melting cheese, like mozzarella (not fresh), Oaxaca or Jack, shredded or cubed
Lime wedges for serving, optional.
1. Put the chicken, the beef bones, 3 of the onion quarters and the garlic in a large pot. Cover with water (about 10 cups) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook skimming the foam off the surface. Cook until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.
2. While the broth simmers away, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot fry two tortillasuntil crisp and golden, flipping once. Cut the remaining tortillas into thin strips (these will be your garnish) and fry them until crisp and golden (they’ll need to be stirred). Drain all tortillas on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt while still warm.
3. When the chicken is ready, remove from the pot and shred when cool enough to handle, removing the skin and bones. If you used beef, discard it or save it for something else.
4. Strain the stock and discard any solids. Peel the rest of the onion and put it in a blender with the chipotle, 1/4 cup of the cilantro and a sprinkle of salt. Crumble in the two whole fried tortillas and add enough stock to fill the blender a little more than halfway. Purée until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
5. Pour the purée and stock back into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently and allow to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken and add salt to taste.
6. To serve, divide the avocados, cheese and remaining cilantro between 4 to 6 bowls. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top with tortilla strips. Serve with lime wedges. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Recipe via New York Times Magazine
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