Monday, December 19, 2011

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is a perfect holiday dish; filling yet light, hearty and satisfying, and full of a robust heat to kill any germs weary travelers may have picked up along their way.  Most tortilla soups consist of a thin tomato broth with an underlying punch of jalapeño, punctuated by goodies floating within (usually chicken, some veggies, and crispy tortilla strips that are added at the last minute).  I wanted to create a version of tortilla soup that would be smoother, lighter, and healthier than the traditional version, and I am so happy with how this recipe turned out!  I daresay it gets 5 husband stars, as it was one of those dishes that gained me compliment after compliment as he took down one bowl and then a second.  Love that.
Here's how my tortilla soup is a bit different than your traditional bowl:
1) Rather than leaving the soup broth-y, I added more veggies, and then pureed the whole pot with my immersion blender.  I love how this gives a dairy-free soup a smooth creaminess, and I think it was part of why this soup was so satisfying.
2) I really upped the garlic and jalapeño in this recipe.  Why?  I am tired of being sick all winter.  I believe in the immunity boosting properties of these ingredients, and intend to burn us all within an inch of our lives with the both of them this winter.  In my defense, the soup wasn't particularly garlicky in the end, just incredibly flavorful, so I say go for it and down a big bowl of this before your next flight.
3) I wanted to forgo the crisy tortilla strips because a) who needs the added fat, and b) bubbling, splattering fryer oil and toddlers don't mix.  I added strips of corn tortilla without frying them, and we still got an amazing corn flavor, just with a chew instead of a crunch.  Had I served the soup within 20 minutes of adding the tortillas, the strips would have added a slurp-y, noodle quality to the soup, but as our evening played out, the soup simmered for an additional hour before we sat down to eat.  As a result, the tortillas totally disintegrated into the soup, but I have to say, I loved the effect this had on the dish.  We ended up with an almost bisque-like concoction, even though it contained no dairy, and the delicate chew of the corn in the puree was delicious.  Try it this way and let me know what you think!

The best thing about soups like this is serving them with plenty of fixings.  I set out shredded sharp cheddar, cilantro, green onions, salsa verde, sour cream and diced avocado.  You could also offer a variety of hot sauces, guacamole, or anything else your imagination offers.  A big pot of this soup would be the perfect thing to greet your guests with upon their arrival at your door.

And nothing says holiday like margaritas, I always say...
SMJ's Tortilla Soup
serves 6-8 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
7 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small jalapeños, finely chopped
1 8 oz. can diced green chiles
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, cayenne, paprika and oregano
Kosher salt and pepper
5 corn tortillas, sliced into thin strips
Optional: 4 chicken thighs or two chicken breasts, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper

1) Let's start with the optional... I think this would be a phenomenal vegetarian soup, but I made mine with chicken, and it was stellar.  I started by pre-heating the oven to 350F, and rubbing 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with olive oil, and sprinkling them with salt and pepper.  I roasted them for 20 minutes until they were cooked through, allowed them to cool, shredded them by hand and set them aside.  Alternatively, you could shred half of a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or roast off and then shred chicken breasts instead of thighs... the cooking time would just be slightly longer.  But seriously, I think this soup would be just as good without any meat at all. Okay, moving on...
2)  Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and red peppers and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent and start to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
3) Lower the heat slightly and add the garlic and jalapeño and continue to saute for another 5 minutes until the jalapeño softens. 
4)  Add the canned chiles and tomatoes and the broth. Puree to your desired consistency with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor.  I left mine just slightly chunky.  Adjust the seasonings to taste.
5) Add the shredded chicken and the tortilla strips, and allow to simmer for about 15-20 more minutes until the tortillas soften. Serve with a variety of fixings... the more the better!


  1. I've been looking for a great tortilla soup recipe to serve the staff at our next blood drive (Jan. 3rd). Thanks, Jane!

  2. This sounds wonderful - especially with all the fixings! :)

  3. I love tortilla soup, and this version looks great. Happy New Year!