This time of year my brown skin gets pasty. Shorter days, I’m outside less and bundled up in layers. I usually escape the winter blues on a beach in Mexico. The last few years it’s been in the Yucatan, mostly around Playa del Carmen.
Four to five lazy days at the beach is some serious R&R with no full agenda. We only take in two or three cultural or historical sites like Chitchen Itza (inland Mayan ruins), Tulum (the beachside ruins) or Coba (more ruins in a jungle setting) because the purpose of these trips is soaking in the natural beauty and chillin’ – sleeping in, long walks along the beach, and swimming/dipping in pristine waters.
During the day, when the sun is blazing we grub on fish tacos or ceviche and swig down a few cold cervezas. Once the sun has set and the coastal winds pick up, hot soup is more inviting. A bowl of chicken tortilla soup is the perfect appetizer or main course for a soup lover like me.
Over the years, I’ve eaten so many versions of tortilla soup I can’t count. Some had cream, others were thick, and some were so skimpy it was more like consume.
I made this chicken tortilla soup the other night needing some comfort food after a long day at the gig and a single-digit day in Denver. Since I’ve been hobbling about in this medical boot, I come home tired and famished, craving something to assuage the hunger and physical discomfort.
This is one of the best tortilla soups I’ve had. My husband says it’s moved to his list of favorites – it’s that good. It’s easy to make and layered with flavor. This is a smoky version that does not require roasting or dry toasting chiles – only a little jalapeno and chipotle – staples in my kitchen.
Whether you’re at the beach, in the mountains or in the city, I encourage you to try this one. As for me, I doubt I’ll get to beach it this winter, but, at least I have a damn good bowl of tortilla soup.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 4 to 6
To save time you can shred some roasted chicken in lieu of starting with raw and use tortilla chips instead of frying up your own.
2 large chicken breasts, cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola)
1/2 small onion, diced small
1 jalapeno, deveined and diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin, divided
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce (mashed into paste)
1 (15 oz.) can diced/stewed tomatoes, pureed
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups corn
2 limes, juiced
8 white corn tortillas (4 diced small – for soup; 4 cut into 1/4 inch strips – for fried strips)
Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Cut chicken breasts into large pieces (2 to 3 inch pieces, about the same thickness) and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add the diced onion and jalapeno. Saute for two minutes. Add the chicken pieces; lightly brown on both sides. Stir in the garlic and cumin for about 1 minute. Add the chipotle sauce, tomatoes (pureed), chicken stock, corn, lime juice and 4 tortillas (diced). Bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes until chicken is cooked.
- Remove chicken with tongs and shred with a fork. Set aside. (2 large chicken breasts make about 3 cups shredded chicken). Return to pot and heat throughout. Adjust seasoning.
- Serve hot garnished with avocado, fresh cilantro and tortilla strips/chips.
Cut 4 corn tortillas into ¼ inch strips (3 inches long). Heat small saucepan or skillet with deep sides with ½ inch vegetable or canola oil. When oil is hot, fry strips until golden and remove with tongs. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Toppings: cheese, sour cream (crema)
Vegetables: Mexican calabacitas (zucchini), nopales, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.