I found a recipe for Tortilla Soup that I thought might be close to what I was looking for. At J. Alexanders, our family’s favorite go-to place, my son Logan and I tried their version a few weeks ago. Since then, the thought never really left us. It was chicken broth based, thickened with tortillas (so said the waiter), with a velvety texture and a hint of heat.
The recipe that I picked from several options available at www.epicurious.com was ‘Tortilla Soup With Crisp Tortillas and Avocado Relish’. I knew from the various other recipes that I rejected as a starting point, that I wanted fast and simple. The directions for this particular soup seemed easy enough, but I did streamline the chili seasoning process so that I could fry up fresh tortilla strips for the garnish. I also simplified the avocado relish.
Now, having said that I basically butchered the recipe, I’ll let you know that the hair on the back of my neck starts to bristle when people tell me that they took one of my recipes and changed this and left that out, and it just didn’t taste like it did when I made it. I saw an episode of Sara Moulton’s cooking show years ago where she advised making a new recipe the way that it was written the first time, then make changes gradually to get exactly what you want. I agree with that thought process for the most part. But yesterday I strayed from that profound idea and went my own way.
The class for which this soup was made also included a roasted acorn squash soup and a vegetarian black bean chili. I decided to keep this one vegetarian too, but later added some poached chicken to the soup. The results were so good that I have included that addition here.
1 white or yellow onion
10-12 tomatoes (a mixture of plum and garden tomatoes), cored
several garlic cloves, peeled
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large chipotle chili, minced
2-4 Tbls masa harina
2 cups (or more) shredded poached chicken (leftover grilled or roasted chicken would work well)
a few corn tortillas, sliced into 1/4″ strips
oil for frying
diced avocado or guacamole or sour cream for garnish
minced fresh jalapeno or other hot chili
Chop or slice the onion and place on a rimmed baking sheet with the garlic and the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the tomato skins have charred and the onion and garlic are softened. Allow to cool enough to handle and peel the tomatoes.
In a large soup pot, heat the chicken stock. Add the roasted vegetables, the oregano, the chili, pepper and salt. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Whisk in the masa and cook until slightly thickened. Add the poached chicken and heat thoroughly.
Heat 1-2 inches of oil in a saucepan or skillet until a strip of the tortilla sizzles when dipped into the oil (about 350 degrees). Fry the tortilla strips in batches. Transfer the tortillas to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Salt while hot.
Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Top with tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, hot chilis and lime.