Classic Tortilla Soup with All the Trimmings
Tortilla Soup is the standard by which I judge all Mexican restaurants I visit – Chicken Tortilla Soup. To say that it is my favorite Mexican dish is an understatement. I am extremely critical of the preparation.
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1 largedried pasilla (negro) chile (see tip), stemmed and seeded
1 can(s)15-ounce) diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 Tbspvegetable or olive oil
1 mediumwhite onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 clovegarlic, peeled
2 qtchicken stock
1 largeepazote sprig
4boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 largeripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cshredded mexican melting cheese (chihuahua, quesadilla, or asadero)
6 ozroughly broken tortilla chips
1 largelime, cut into 6 wedges
How to Make Classic Tortilla Soup with All the Trimmings
- 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.
- Process until smooth.
- 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.