It's cold outside. When it gets cold, I crave soup. I could make a huge pot every single day, but I think Tom would finally object and demand control of the kitchen so he could make something different.
Except maybe for a good French onion soup, I had not been a brothy soup person. Growing up, my mom always made thick, hearty soups. The soup, along with rolls or bread, was our meal. I learned to make soup that way and I do it really well. I love thick or chunky or creamy soups, full of beans or veggies and meat or shellfish. Unfortunately, I did not come to appreciate a really good broth until I was a good deal older.
Several years ago, on a business trip to San Antonio, Texas, I had the great fortune to sample what was called San Antonio's signature soup. I have searched ever since for the perfect recipe.
The presentation was unique (perhaps because I live in a bubble). Piles of finely grated cheddar cheese, crisp corn tortilla strips, fresh homemade salsa and chunky guacamole were served up in the soup bowl. A large gravy boat contained a hot, rich broth enhanced with caramelized onions. A small dish of chopped, fresh cilantro was to provide the finishing touch. After my first taste, I was hooked. I ordered and ate that soup every day I was there. All the condiments were familiar to me, but that broth...clear, but hearty; richly flavored; slightly spicy. It was the kind of soup that invoked that involuntary Mmmmmm noise with each bite.
Tom and I have tried many recipes in an attempt to duplicate the broth I ate in San Antonio, but I am thinking that my palate's memory is faulty. Nothing we make is quite there. So, we have adapted and combined many recipes to come up with our own. Although this recipe has some cream in it, the soup is delicious and the flavor is very reminiscent of that wonderful "signature soup." We simply call it Tortilla Soup.
Enjoy and stay warm!
3 large bone-in chicken breasts
1 gallon of water
4 teaspoons chicken base (I use Minor's)
3 carrots, halved lengthwise then cut in 1/4 inch pieces
3 celery stalks, halved lengthwise, then cut in 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced fine
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes (mild) undrained
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
Condiments: Make all of your condiments in advance so they are ready to go when your soup is ready.
Chopped avocado or chunky guacamole
Grated cheddar or jack cheese or a mixture of both
Crispy tortilla strips
Cilantro sour cream
Place the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, salt and peppers in a pot with the water, bring to a boil and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the chicken and allow to cool. To the broth, add the Rotel, cilantro, corn and cumin. Stir well and bring up to temperature. Remove the chicken from the bone, shred and return the shredded chicken to the pot. Add the cream just to get a the color and a little thickness.
To serve, place about 2 Tablespoons of each condiment in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the condiments. Top with Cilantro Sour Cream, if desired.
Chunky Guacamole: Cut one avocado in half and remove the pit. Cut each half in half (you will have 4 pieces). Remove the skin from the flesh and place the slice in a bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of onion powder. Using a fork, very gently mash the avocado and mix in spices. Do not over mash so that it becomes smooth.
Fresh Salsa: 1-1/2 cups finely chopped fresh tomato, 3/4 cup finely chopped onion, 2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, 1/2 Tablespoon finely chopped jalepeno pepper, 1 Tablespoon of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Crispy Tortilla Strips: Cut about 10 corn tortillas in strips. Fry in oil until crisp, but not brown. Remove to paper towel to drain. Salt very lightly.
Cilantro Sour Cream: 1 cup light sour cream, 1/4 cup very finely chopped cilantro, a pinch each of salt and white pepper. Prepare in advance and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld. Serve on top of the soup. This is also good on enchiladas, chiles rellenos or tacos.