It was a little disorienting cooking in the new kitchen for the first time – even though I’ve been unpacking and organizing the kitchen, I’m still not quite used to the new locations for pots, utensils, and spices. As daylight faded, I was cooking only by under-cabinet lighting, until I realized that the entry way has working lights as well, so my status was upgraded from “cooking in a cave by candlelight” to “cooking in a cave by firelight”. Kitchen lighting has been bumped up to a top-three spot on the “things to buy for the new home” list.
Onto the soup!
Tortilla Soup is one of our go-to dinners, easy to make and always tasty even though I make it a little bit differently every time. I first made it about eight years ago from a recipe I found on Digital Chef (which doesn’t seem to exist anymore, probably eclipsed many moons ago by foodtv.com), but after the first few times I stopped consulting the recipe and cook it according to memory or whim.
Tonight’s version was a little different than normal, partially because I decided to try shredded chicken instead of the grilled or broiled chicken I usually use, and partially because one of my plum tomatoes had grown a moldy beard and was beginning to infect the others, so tomato-from-a-tube saved the day! The bearded tomato was a stressful start to the dish, but I took a page from the Charlie Papazian playbook (Relax, and have a homebrew!), opened up a bottle of vintage 2007 Hibiscus Wit beer, and tried to boost the soup’s freshness profile with some extra onion and cilantro.
The soup turned out well, with spicy, herbal broth (thank you, cayenne and Mexican oregano!), and the shredded chicken proved to be a winner – more tender than the grilled method, and the broth was flavorful enough that we didn’t miss the usual spice rub, so next time I’ll stick with shredded chicken but go back to the fresh tomatoes!
0) Cut 3 corn tortillas into thin strips and toast. I usually need to toast twice to get my preferred level of crisp, but once I forgot about them and set the toaster oven on fire. This is not recommended, particularly if you have working smoke detectors or are fond of your toaster oven.
1) To make the shredded chicken, combine in a small pot:
- 2 chicken breasts, cut in 4 equal pieces
- 1/2 yellow onion, split in 2
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp each Mexican oregano, epazote, black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
Add water to cover, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate, and shred into bite-size pieces with a fork and knife. (Method adapted from Chicken: 150 Great Recipes for All Seasons by Elaine Corn)
2) For the soup, heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large pot. Add and cook over medium heat until translucent:
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
Add to the pot, stir, and toast for one minute:
- 2 bay leaves
- Assorted spices, 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp each: Ancho chile powder, Chipotle chile powder, cayenne pepper, Mexican oregano, ground cumin, black pepper, salt
Add and stir constantly for one minute:
- 1/2 cup toasted corn tortilla strips
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste (usually 3 plum tomatoes, chopped)
Add, bring to a boil, and simmer for at least 20 minutes:
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- shredded chicken from step one
Serve approximately 1 1/2 cups of soup per bowl, top with shredded cheese and more toasted tortilla strips, and enjoy!