Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Good Saturday afternoon!

I almost missed the morning because I S.L.E.P.T. I.N. like a lazy lady. But yesterday was my last day at internship, so I celebrated by treating myself to sleeping in big time. And now it's time for you to experience some tortilla soup.

So I should tell you that I have a lifelong for tortilla soup. Some of my favorites are from unlikely sources (Casa Ole, Taco Cabana, I know) but other favorites are from very likely sources (Lupe Tortilla, El Rey, Tila's, Pappasito's, and El Tiempo, my home). In fact, in Houston (my homeland), there are "tortilla soup battles" like here and here. Is it ridiculous? Slightly. Is it fo'real? Absolutely.

I have made tortilla soup maybe 8 times...ever. While this might not make me an expert, my recipe is evolving into something easy, hearty, and colorful. Of course we all have our preferences...lots of cheese, mounds of avocado, with/without chicken, with/w/out sour cream, really/not so salty...but the base is always the same. It's a chicken stock foundation with tomatoes, vegetables and just a little meat (nearly always chicken). The toppings list can be as long as the simmering, if you like. My recipe is a mixture of one of Rachael Ray's, Emeril's and my favorite restaurants' versions. I will warn you...once you make a batch, you will have enough for days and days. And I don't think this is a leftover that gets old. I promise this is EASY to make, and it will take you half the time the SECOND time you make it. Practice makes perfect, right? If you can, chop/prep all of the veggies and chicken first, then start cooking. And recruit a sous chef, too.
Tortilla soup on a bed of lettuce, drained a little. Trust me, it's tasty.
Cha Cha Chicken Tortilla Soup
makes ten 12 oz. servings, maybe more
This Tex-Mex classic soup is hearty, full of vegetables, and complimented with well-seasoned chicken. It is slow cooked to marry the flavors. While not very spicy, additional peppers can be added to kick up the heat. Served best by itself, topped with cheese/sourcream/tortillachips/avocado, or on top of a bed of lettuce for a zesty salad.

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
3 TB olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped (bite-sized)
1 red bell pepper, bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
2 zucchini, sliced into half moons, 1/4 inch thick (leave peel on)
1 potato, sliced into very small square bites (leave skin on)
1/4 cup water + 1/4 cup water + 2 cups water
1 to 1 1/2 pound chicken (I use white meat), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lime, cut into halves
1 can corn
2 roma tomatoes (a regular large tomato works, too), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can Rotel tomatoes (with mild or medium chilis)
1 handful of chopped cilantro, about 1/2 cup
2 TB chili powder
1/3 (3-4 TB) palm-full of cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 whole small jalapenos, chopped (leave seeds in for more kick)
4 cups chicken stock--reduced sodium or no sodium

1CHOP: Chop all of the veggies and chicken. Turn your large crock pot onto high...or use a large soup pot on the stove (on medium).

2SAUTE: In a wok or large non-stick pan on medium-high heat, drizzle 1 TB olive oil over pan. Add in half of the sliced garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, a generous dash of pepper, and saute for 1 minute. Add in the onion and bell pepper, stirring and sauteing for 5 minutes. Onions should be clear and bell pepper should be slightly "soft." Transfer this to your crock pot or soup pot.

3SAUTE: In the same wok, add another 1 TB of olive oil and the rest of the sliced garlic. Let saute for one minute. Then add 1/4 cup water, zucchini and potato. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Cover with lid and let cook for 7 minutes, or until potatoes and zucchini are 50% cooked. If potatoes are still solid, let cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to your crock pot or soup pot.

4COOK: In that same wok, add the last 1 TB olive oil and let get hot. Add chicken and the second 1/4 cup of water, plus the juice of half of a lime. Stir. Let cook on medium high for a few minutes, adding a pinch of salt and pepper, 2 TB chili powder, and 1 TB cumin. Let cook until all of the water has evaporated and the chicken has cooked all the way through--about 7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the crock or soup pot.

5COLOR: Add the cans of corn and Rotel tomatoes to the crock pot. Add: cilantro, three cups of chicken stock, 2 cups of water, remaining cumin, crushed red pepper, jalapenos, and juice of 1/2 a lime + the lime. Stir. Cover and let marry for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

6TASTE: This is the best part. After that first hour of cooking, grab a spoon and taste to see if the flavors are coming together. Add more salt and pepper, crushed red pepper or cumin, to taste. If you'd like more broth, pour in the remaining cup of chicken stock. Let cook for 30-60 more minutes (or, if you can't wait, eat a bowl now and let the rest cook). Then share your personal flaw of impatience with a friend, like you all.

7CHA-CHA: Top with your favorites and eat greedily.

Optional Toppings when served:
Shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, swiss, mozzarella, etc.)
Sour cream/Greek yogurt
Tortilla chips, crumbled
Sliced avocado
Chopped onions
Extra sliced jalapenos, habaneros
Crusty bread on the side
Soft tortillas on the side

I hope you'll try this one for your next dinner party, lazy Sunday night meal, or just because. This is colorful comfort food, with a twist. Happy weekend, dear friends.

Happy eating!

Listening to: The Head and the Heart...beautiful, beautiful harmonies and strumming. Perfect for anytime.

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