There are very few first-world problems in this life I find more maddening than the uber-annoying, completely unnecessary rhinovirus – yup, the common cold. Seriously, WHAT is the point. This completely harmless virus hitches a ride into your system via one of your orifices, and can your immune system just leave well enough alone? Oh no. It has to go into massive attack mode; it’s the equivalent of bringing assault rifles to a mere negotiation, and it’s NOT necessary at all. I just find it so ridiculous that something so harmless – and not even alive!!! – can make you feel so shitty. I’m sure it’s beyond obvious by now: I have a cold.
And when I have a cold, I want soup. But only one of two soups: either Sopa de Lima (I’ll have to share my favorite version with you sometime), or Chicken Tortilla Soup. I need the heavy citrus of Sopa de Lima, or the spice of Chicken Tortilla Soup, both shown to help diminish those irritating cold symptoms. I guess my Texas roots are showing…
This particular Chicken Tortilla Soup is from Iron Chef Jose Garces. Is it more complicated than the vast majority of Chicken Tortilla Soup recipes on offer from a generic Google search? Yeah. Does it involve many more steps? You better believe it. Is it so unbelievably worth it? Oh. Hell. Yes.
I’ll have lots of trouble making another version of this soup ever again. I mean, I’m sure I will at some point, because I’ll be craving it on a weeknight when I have little time and energy to throw dinner together, and this particular recipe is much more along the lines of Big Weekend Project… but I’ll be thinking of Garces’ version the whole time. It’s that memorable and delicious. Highly recommended, even when you don’t have a cold (and I sincerely hope you do not, because this is such crap.) Enjoy!
SOURCE: The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces
For the POACHED CHICKEN:
1 Spanish onion, peeled and quartered
1 fresh bay leaf
1 ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
For the SOUP:
2 tbs canola oil, plus more for frying chips
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 Spanish onion, peeled and quartered with the root intact
3 beefsteak tomatoes, halved
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup ground pasilla chile powder
1 canned chipotle in adobo, plus some sauce
2 quarts chicken stock
8 to 10 corn tortillas
For the CRISPY TORTILLA STRIPS:
Canola oil, for frying
4 to 6 corn tortillas, cut into strips
Crumbled queso fresco
Chopped fresh cilantro
First make the POACHED CHICKEN: bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, then add the onion quarters, bay leaf, and 3-4 tbs salt. Add the chicken and simmer 10 to 12 minutes, until just cooked through. Lift the chicken out of the water, drain it, and allow it to cool. Shred by hand into bite-size pieces. Discard the cooking liquid.
To make the SOUP: heat a cast-iron skillet over very high heat. Add the garlic, onion quarters, and tomato halves. Leave them alone and flip them to char and blacken on each side. Work in batches if necessary. Leave the garlic cloves as is, but coarsely chop the onion, discarding the root, and coarsely chop the tomato, discarding the core.
Add 2 tbs canola oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the charred garlic, onion, and tomato and cook until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato paste, pasilla chile powder, and chipotle with sauce. Cook 10 minutes more. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the tortillas into quarters. Heat enough canola oil to fry the tortillas into chips. You know the oil is ready when a pinch of tortilla quickly floats back to the top and starts bubbling right away, but if it browns right away, your oil is too hot. If you are using a thermometer, it should be about 375 F. Fry the tortilla chips, a couple minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. No need to salt them. Work in batches if necessary.
When the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, drop the freshly made tortilla chips into the soup and cook another 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until very smooth. Season with kosher salt. Keep warm.
Now make the CRISPY TORTILLA STRIPS: heat up enough oil to fry tortillas, again to about 375 F. You can reuse the oil from the chips you just made. Fry the strips until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towel lined plates and season with kosher salt. Work in batches if necessary.
Serve the soup by placing some chicken into each of 4 bowls, then ladle soup on top of the chicken. Garnish each bowl with some crema, cheese, avocado, cilantro, tortilla strips, and squeeze with a lime wedge.