Monday, October 26, 2009

Tortilla Soup

There are two schools of tortilla soup:  creamy and brothy.  The creamy version is made like any other soup--saute aromatics (onions and peppers) with spices (cumin, coriander, chile powder), add chicken broth to cook the chicken and tortillas, and finish with cream.  The alternate version of tortilla soup consists of a spicy broth brewed with chiles and roasted garlic; other ingredients are more of an afterthought, added over the top just before serving.
I grew up on the creamy version because if you give a Texan a choice between creamy and brothy, their taste buds will naturally choose the higher calorie version.  But since I discovered the brothy version in the Jamison's Texas Home Cooking , I'm addicted to the smokey heat of the broth mellowed by lime.  Here's my version.

Tortilla Soup (serves two)
For the chicken:
1 chicken breast (with or without bones and skin, either way is fine)
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
1 smashed clove of garlic
3 whole cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1-2 TBSP olive oil
For the soup:
4 cups beef broth
3/4 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 canned chipotle pepper, minced and seeds removed if preferred
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, half chopped, half sliced
1-2 TBSP vegetable oil
A few handfuls of tortilla chips (I used blue corn)
1/2 lime

First, poach the chicken:  Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the chicken breast in a baking dish and add enough water to come up about half-way.  To the water, add the peppercorns, bay leaf, and smashed garlic clove.  Sprinkle the top of the chicken breast with salt generously.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle.  Simultaneously, place the 3 garlic cloves in a small dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake until soft and golden, about 15 minutes.  Once the chicken has cooled, shred it with two forks, removing the skin and bones if necessary.  Peel and dice the roasted garlic cloves.
In a small soup pot, pour in the beef broth, roasted garlic cloves, tomatoes, oregano, and the chopped onion.  Boil this mixture for 30 minutes uncovered.  While the broth is boiling, preheat the broiler.  Toss the sliced onion in vegetable oil and spread on a sheet pan.  Broil about 15 minutes, until well browned and blackened on edges. Stir the broiled onions and shredded chicken into the broth and heat through.
When ready to serve, place a handful of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl.  Ladle over the broth.  Squeeze lime atop. 
Please note that I did not call for salt in this recipe.  In my opinion, the beef broth, tortilla chips, and lime juice provide all the saltiness desired.

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