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Tortilla Soup

*Update 8/22/11: please see my new and improved Tortilla Soup post (recipe remains the same) HERE

I love soup. I love making it. I love eating it. Love it, love it, love it. One of my absolute favorites is Tortilla Soup and my favorite way to make it is adapted from Rick Bayless. Of course, I am a major fan of all things Mexican...the food, the culture, the beautiful beaches. Also a major fan of Rick Bayless! He is an absolute genius.

Many Mexican recipes that I make are his recipes...or evolved from his recipes...thanks Rick! It's simple, yet the best things in life.

frying the tortilla strips

cooking onions and garlic until golden

all of the flavor goes into the blender...

Beggy McBeggerson begs.  As usual.

steaming pot of soup

all the fixins are essential to a good bowl of Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup 
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by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Keywords: soup/stew tortillas stock Mexican

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • ~10 corn tortillas (+ a little oil for frying)
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled & sliced
  • 2 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded & torn into several pieces
  • 1 (~15 oz.) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained
  • 6 c. chicken broth or stock
  • sea salt
  • queso fresco (I usually use ~1-12 oz. disk), cut into squares
  • avocado (1 or 2), diced large
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
I usually begin by cutting the tortillas in half, and then into strips that are ~¼" wide. Heat about a half an inch of oil in my Dutch oven. When it's hot and shimmering, fry the strips, in batches if necessary, until crisp and golden. Lift out onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Set aside.

Drain off all but a thin film of oil, return the pan to the heat, and add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until they begin to turn golden, ~7 minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon, pressing against the side of the pot to leave behind any oil and transfer to a blender jar. Add torn chiles to oil and fry/toast, turning, until they scent the kitchen with that deep, rich, inviting scent...only about 30 seconds in all. Remove them to the paper towel-lined plate, as well.

Add the tomatoes to the blender jar with the onions and garlic. Purée until smooth. Set the pot over medium-high and add purée, stirring often until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, 5-10 minutes (careful, it splatters...I usually put the lid or splatter guard on partially when I'm not stirring). Add chicken broth, cover partially and lower heat. Simmer gently for ~30 minutes. Season and add salt, to taste. How much you add will depend on the saltiness of your broth or stock...start with ~½ tsp.

To serve, fill bowls generously with chunks of avocado and cubes of queso fresco. Ladle the hot soup over that. Put a big handful of crispy tortilla strips on top. Crumble some of the now-crispy toasted chile over the top. Finish by squeezing a wedge or more of lime over the bowl.

As with most soups, this gets even better when it's had time to sit and relax in the fridge for up to a few days. Just don't cut the avocado until right before serving. Re-heat and serve later, if you wish. If you're like me, you'll make a double-batch almost every time.