Classic Tortilla Soup with All the Trimmings
Family Tested & Approved
dried pasilla (negro) chile (see tip), stemmed and seeded
15-ounce) diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
vegetable or olive oil
white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
shredded mexican melting cheese (chihuahua, quesadilla, or asadero)
roughly broken tortilla chips
lime, cut into 6 wedges
Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen.
Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.
Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won't completely puree the chile.)
Heat the oil in a medium (3- to 4-quart) saucepan over medium-high.
Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes.
Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender.
Raise the heat under the pan to medium-high.
When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Taste and season with about a teaspoon of salt (amount depends on the saltiness of the broth).
Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth.
Divide the avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips among serving bowls.
When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls.
Garnish with a lime wedge.
A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile
Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacán, it's ancho chile.
In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forewarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy).
In Mexico, it's more common to crush toasted chile pods over the soup than to add it to the base. You can follow that lead, or do both as they do in restaurants.