Going to college in Austin, Texas afforded many opportunities to enjoy hearty Tex Mex foods and tortilla soup has always been one of my favorites. I tried many recipes before I finally found just the right one. This recipe is easy to make (it takes a total of about 35 minutes) and tastes absolutely wonderful! I believe I got it from the H.E.B grocery store chain (one of those little booths they set up in the produce section where they give out recipe cards), but I could be mistaken as the recipe has been in my possession for over a decade. Regardless of where I got it, the recipe is definitely one of my winter staples.
1 pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 medium Onion, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
28 ounces Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 can (14 ounces) Zesty Tomatoes
4 teaspoons fresh Lime Juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
1 tablespoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Pepper
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
4 Corn Tortillas
1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons Sour Cream
1 medium Avocado, diced
Chop your onion and cilantro and mince your garlic, set them aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a 5 quart dutch oven or a stock pot. Season your chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper on each side and then sear 2 to 3 minutes per side, just enough to get a little color. Add in your onions and garlic and sweat for a minute or two until onions begin to turn translucent. Pour in your chicken broth and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Allow to cook for 10 minutes.
While your soup is simmering away, heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil over medium to medium-high heat in a saute pan. While the oil is heating, juilenne 4 corn tortillas by halving the tortillas, stacking them on top of one another, halving them again (essentially quartering them) and then slicing thin strips.
Test the oil by sacrificing one of your tortilla pieces. If the oil is the right temperature it will bubble around the piece pretty quickly, but won’t immediately change the color on the tortilla. Fry the strips in batches (about 2 – 3 minutes each batch) and then drain on paper towels. Make sure to salt the tortilla strips when they are fresh out of the oil.
Set your fried tortilla strips aside and turn your attention back to the soup. Remove the chicken from the stock and allow it to cool on a cutting board for a few minutes. In the meantime, add the can of zesty tomatos, cilantro, sugar, cumin, lime juice, salt and pepper to your stock and onions. Using either a stick blender or the more traditional version (where you will have to do 2 or 3 batches) puree the contents of the pot until smooth. If using a regular blender return to the pot once pureed. Cut the chicken breasts into 1/2 inch dice pieces and return the pieces to the soup. If the chicken is not cooked through keep on the heat an additional 5 mnutes or so to finish the task.
Ladle 8 to 12 ounces of soup into a bowl. Garnish with shredded cheese, avocado, fried tortilla strips, and sour cream. ¡Es muy delicioso!
Tips and Tricks:
If you like the thicker style of tortilla soup, it can be achieved by adding a couple of torn up corn tortillas to your soup and allowing them to cook down a bit before pureeing.
You could add in a minced jalapeño to your soup at the same time you add the onions and the garlic if you like your Tex Mex food to pack a bit of a punch.
Immersion blenders (stick blenders) are great gadgets to have in the kitchen. Not only do they make fast work of pureed soups, but they’re great for salad dressings, too.
Serves 4 people.