Many years ago on a family vacation near Zihuatenejo, we loved eating at a tiny restaurant down the beach from where we stayed. There we discovered tortilla soup. It was so good my sister Mary, with her limited high school Spanish, persuaded the cook who spoke little English to give her the recipe. So with a lot of trial and error, she scribbled it down in her little notebook. It has been popular with our family ever since. Please don’t be disturbed by the list of ingredients. All together they make a memorable soup, good enough for company.
There are two parts to this recipe, the soup and the garnishes, each one equally important. It is not difficult to make at all and if you don’t want to cook a chicken, you can just use canned good quality chicken broth and a fresh rotisserie chicken from your favorite store. If you are really in a hurry, you can substitute two cups of your favorite salsa for the tomatoes, peppers and onion.
Serving up tortilla soup with garnishes for people to add on top. (Photo by Laurie Craig)
PART I: THE SOUP
6 cups chicken broth, canned or homemade
1 cup minced onion (about one medium size)
1 minced clove of garlic
1 serrano pepper, minced
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp chipotle in adobo (easily obtained in the Hispanic section of the supermarket)
2 cups of shredded cooked chicken (boned and skinned)
2-3 tablespoons of sour cream
Salt to taste
Prepare all the above ingredients and put them on the counter to easily access.
Saute onion, garlic and pepper in oil at a medium heat until soft. Add broth, tomatoes and remaining ingredients except for chicken and sour cream. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and cayenne pepper if necessary. Remove ¼ cup of soup from the pan and stir in sour cream. Add to soup.
Add shredded chicken and set aside.
Garnishing a bowl of tortilla soup. (Photo by Laurie Craig)
PART II: THE GARNISHES
8 corn tortillas, cut into ½ inch strips
1 avocado, cubed
1 cup, chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup cubed Monterey jack cheese
Two ancho/pasilla chiles, seeded, stemmed and toasted and thinly sliced
Diced fresh roasted green chiles (poblano or Anaheim)
Prepare all garnishes except for the tortilla strips, put them in separate bowls and place them on the table so that guests may help themselves.
Fry tortilla strips in hot oil until golden (be careful not to brown). Drain on paper towels and salt. Place in large bowl on the table.
Ladle hot soup onto the tortilla strips at the table.
Let your guests garnish the soup as they wish.
• Patty Schied is a longtime Juneau resident who studied at the Cordon Bleu in London, has cooked meals for both AWARE and the Glory Hall, and has written a cookbook. Cooking For Pleasure appears every other week in Capital City Weekly.