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The Quest Continues...with Good Neighbor Tortilla Soup

It has been EIGHT months since I decided to go on a quest to try as many different versions of Tortilla Soup as I could.  And asked you to help me.  Since I knew there was no way I could get to every version.  Probably with all of us working at it, it's still not possible.  But I tell ya what...I'm having an awesome time trying!  I'm developing a definite set of preferences...but...I'm not going to let you in on those quite yet.  I'm making notes and continuing observation and testing for now.  I'd hate to jump the gun,  ya know?  Those'll all end up in my big summary post down the line.  For now, let's just talk about this version- we'll call it the "good neighbor" version (after a cookbook I'm currently reviewing...more on that later in the week).    This is a brothier as opposed to creamy & thick soup base.  Okay, one hint...this is my favorite type of base to date.  The method if fairly straight forward with the tomato, onion, garlic, and chile that I've come to expect.  I think what really sets this version apart is the extent to which the flavors are built and developed.  Bone-in chicken breasts poached in chicken stock for a fortified, double-strength chicken punch.  Charred veggies lend smoky, earthy undertones.  And most surprising of all?  This is a bowl of mild soup. Mild!  Honestly, my first experience with Tortilla Soup that didn't pack a spicy one-two!  Yes, it's true...I like spice.  I like the warmth that creeps up on you unexpectedly...and occasionally the one that punches you square in the nose.  That said, I loved this calm, unassaulting version, too.  There's just so much flavor...and goodies...packed into each spoonful that it's hard to dismiss.  Yes, there are chiles in it, but they are mild pasillas.  They add the depth without the fire.  Join me in a warm bowl of Tortilla Soup?
"Good Neighbor" Chicken Tortilla Soup
yield: ~2½ qts.

for soup:
~3 lbs. bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
8 c. low-sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
3 pasilla chiles, seeded & stemmed
2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
¾ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

for serving:
crushed tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips
cilantro, chopped
avocados, diced
freshly squeezed lime juice
queso fresco, cubed or crumbled

Place chicken in a large pot and pour the broth over it.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest bubble and cook for ~20 minutes.  Turn off heat, allow to cool a bit.  Remove chicken and shred from bone, reserving chicken.  I then strained the resulting liquid through a coffee filter-lined strainer for clear broth.  Reserve 5 cups of broth for soup and use/save the rest for something else.

While the chicken is poaching, soak two of the pasilla chiles in hot water to soften for ~10 minutes, then drain.  Preheat the broiler.  Place tomatoes, onion, and garlic on a broiler pan or sheet of tin foil and broil until well charred, ~12-15 minutes.  Transfer veggies w/ their juices and the soaked pasillas to the jar of a blender and blend until smooth.  You will wind up w/ ~4 c. of puree.  The recipe didn't say to strain, but I pushed the puree through a strainer so we wouldn't have seeds & skins stuck in our teeth.  Simple, but meaningful step.
Combine the puree, reserved chicken broth, and salt & pepper in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Slice the remaining pasilla chile and add to pot along w/ reserved chicken.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve with a bit of each of the garnish/toppings in each bowl. Enjoy. Immensely!
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While I absolutely LOVED the method of poaching the chicken in broth, I thought the amount of chicken in the soup was actually a bit too much.  Next time, I'll still prepare the same amount, but I'll probably put aside half of the chicken for another use.  Or just eat it out of hand.  It's so tasty, that I actually will enjoy having the extra...as I do having the extra broth.  If you wanted to add heat to this version, I'd throw in a couple of jalapeños or serranos with the other veggies to char.  I need queso fresco in my Tortilla Soup.  I love the way it absorbs the hot liquid and gets sort of soft and squishy...it adds great texture.

I hope you'll join me on my QUEST...I have about four months remaining!

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