A couple of Saturday mornings ago I was flipping the channels taking in the Food Network shows and randomly ran across Rachel Ray preparing her week's worth of menus that happened to be based off of chicken as the core ingredient.
Watching her prepare, a Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe caught my attention for two reasons.
First of all, it contained ingredients I would normally either have on my pantry shelf or would purchase, and secondly, it only took her a matter of minutes to throw together, especially since there was no advance cooking time needed for the chicken because the uncooked pieces were placed in the soup broth to simmer until all juicy and done.
I must admit when I think chicken tortilla soup, the cheesy version with the nacho cheese soup comes to mind. This was nothing at all like that. The only cheese added was at the very end and as with all the other topping ingredients listed, only optional according to each individual's taste.
My goal was to serve this new soup recipe on Christmas Eve so I doubled the batch with no difficulties.
However, when I started browning the first ingredient -- the corn tortilla squares -- I was a little bit skeptical wondering how it was all going to turn out, but the wonder was all for nought.
As the ingredients were added, the aroma in the kitchen became more intense and pleasing.
Adding the uncooked chicken breasts as the final step worked like a charm. I brought the liquid ingredients back up to a boil and then turned down to simmer, allowing the chicken (I used frozen breasts from a three-pound bag, if you are making a single recipe use four, but if you double, use the whole bag) to cook about 15 minutes. I then removed them from the broth and sliced and placed back in making for a substantially meaty soup.
Preparing the soup in the morning I transferred the finished result into a crockpot and simmered on low for several hours. This caused the tortillas to break apart into smaller pieces making them also rice-like, which added to the texture. The next time I prepare the soup, which I definitely intend to do, I will either make it and serve it or not simmer it as long so the tortillas hold their consistency.
The baked corn chips from the fresh corn tortillas were really a nice touch but if you want you can forego that step and use regular bagged tortilla chips.
As for the cheese for garnishing the hot soup I also relied on the bagged shredded cheddar, but whatever your preference is what you should serve.
The end result was fantastic, the fresh, flavorful blend of spices and the generous amount of chicken was deliciously perfect making for a wonderfully satisfying meal in a bowl.
The reviews I received from those eating it, many of whom enjoyed seconds, varied from: "this is the best tortilla soup I have eaten, can I have the recipe?" to "this tortilla soup is really great."
The recipe will definitely be a keeper in my book and one that I am looking forward to preparing and serving again soon!
Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!
Yummy Chicken Tortilla Soup
12 corn tortillas
3 to 4 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tbsp. chili powder (mild, medium, whatever you prefer)
1 tbsp. ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
1 large onion, chopped
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken broth
1 14-ounce can tomatoes with green chilis
4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
Optional for serving
2 ripe avacados
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped, for serving
1 small red onion, finely chopped for serving
Sour cream, for serving
Shredded cheese, for serving (any type you prefer, recipe calls for queso fresco but I used mild cheddar)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice 6 of the tortillas into 1-inch strips, and then arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer and spray with cooking spray. Bake until deeply golden, season with salt and reserve.
Heat the corn oil in a soup pot or large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Chop the remaining 6 tortillas into 1 to 1 1/2-inch squares, and then stir into the pot 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic, bay leaves, onions and cilantro, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and stir to toast the spices. Cook until the onions are translucent, 12 to 15 minutes.
Pour in the broth with the tomatoes and chiles and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, reduce the heat a bit and simmer to cook through, 15 minutes. Remove the chicken, slice or chop the breasts, and then return to the soup. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
To serve, dice the avocados and cut the limes into wedges. Place some avocado at the bottom of each soup bowl and douse with a healthy squeeze of lime juice before filling the bowls with soup. At the table, top the soup with the baked tortilla strips, jalapenos, red onions, cheese and sour cream.
Cook's Note: Cool and store for a make-ahead meal. Bring to room temperature before reheating over medium heat.