Week 6, Meal 3: Tortilla soup

I don’t know where in the world you’re reading this from, but I’m writing from sunny Orange County, California where it wasn’t summer until fall and it wasn’t fall until December.

So far this month we’ve had stunning heat and heavy rain, but yesterday we had a beautiful day that started out with light rain dripping from a dull blue sky. I saw some sun in the afternoon, and at night, it was nice and cool near the mouth of the canyon where I live.

It was a day for soup, and lucky for me Chef Brian was serving up a comforting bowl of steamy broth packed with meat and veggies and topped with cheese.

Snuggle up to Week 6, Meal 3: Tortilla soup.

The Recipe (Yield: 4 servings)

1 T vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pasilla pepper, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small diced
2 jalapeno peppers, small diced
1 t paprika
1 t cumin
1/2 t coriander
1 t ancho chile powder
15-oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
32-oz. chicken stock
1 lb. chicken thighs, boneless skinless, trimmed of any fat
2 corn tortillas, chopped into small pieces
2 limes, juiced
salt and pepper
1 avocado, diced
3 oz. queso fresco
1 T chopped cilantro

As always, start with the prep. For this recipe, that means throwing the small dice on 1 yellow onion, 1 pasilla pepper, 1 red bell pepper and 2 jalapeno peppers. Drop the mince on 2 cloves of garlic.

Trim the fat from 1 lb. of chicken thighs.

In a small bowl, combine 1 t of paprika, 1 t of cumin, 1 t of ancho chile powder and 1/2 t of coriander.

In a large pot, heat 1 T of oil and add peppers, onions and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add paprika, cumin, ancho and coriander and mix well. Cook for 1 more minute.

Add 1 15-oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes and 32 oz. of chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Once the soup is boiling, add the raw chicken and reduce heat to simmer on low for 15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking you can do a little more prep. Cut 2 tortillas into dime-sized squares.

Juice 2 limes.

Chop  1 T of cilantro.

After 15 minutes, take the chicken out of the simmering broth and set aside so it can cool down.

While the chicken is cooling, drop the square-cut tortilla pieces in the soup and simmer for 15 more minutes.

This was a departure from the way I’ve eaten tortilla soup before (fried strips on top, strings of gooey cheese within) but Brian said the tortillas are only meant to thicken the broth so I trusted him and followed his sage wisdom.

While the tortilla breaks down in the soup, give 1 avocado the ol’ small dice too.

Shred the chicken with the back of a fork.

Add shredded chicken, lime juice and salt and pepper to the pot.

To plate, serve 2 t0 3 cups of tortilla soup per person. Top with some of the queso fresco (recipe calls for 3 oz. total between 4 portions) and some of the diced avocado.

This is a dish good for all weather and all moods. The rich tomato broth is packed with vegetables but has enough chicken to feel heartier than a simple veggie soup. The spice mix makes you constantly aware it’s not just any one ingredient, but a balance of smoky, salty and savory that makes this a successful dish.

Enjoy!

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