Cookbook #2, and Mexican Chicken Soup

We have moved on to our second cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa at Home.” This is a relatively new acquisition for me, and was the happy result of receiving a bookstore gift card. Hooray for gifts!

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Hello, Ina!

I like her show. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan, but I think she makes nice food and has a very sensible attitude. I say “rar!” at how flashy and ridiculous a lot of Food Network programming is these days, and I find her to be an exception.

Anyway, today we’re exploring Tortilla Soup, or as Ina Garten would have it, Mexican Chicken Soup. I have always heard this soup called Tortilla Soup and never Mexican Chicken Soup, even though that is, of course, what it is. Hmm. It is a favorite of mine, and I do like to order it out, and I knew I would be pleased to have a good version of it in my repetoire.

The ingredients, up front:

4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2-4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

To serve:
sliced avocado
sour cream
grated Cheddar cheese
tortilla chips

Okay! Let’s kick it off with some big raw chicken breasts.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35-40 minutes, until done.

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Mmm? Not yet.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

I was surprised at how tasty this chicken was–of course I tried it!–after what I had thought would be a short roasting time. I guess this shows I’ve been overcooking my chicken. Well, I’ve learned my lesson.

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A heap of tasty meat. Can't you SEE that it's not even a little dried out?

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

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A lot of veggies.

To be honest, I was surprised by the quantity of carrots called for in this recipe. I have never seen any visible presence of carrot in my prior tortilla soup encounters. Still, I went along with it.

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using.

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Whoa, Nellie. I hope you've got a big pot.

I did not make my own stock. I bought low-sodium stock. And I didn’t quite realize that 2 and 1/2 quarts would be making this much soup.

At this point, the recipe gets a little weird:

Cut the tortillas in half, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add them to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

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I doubt your structural integrity, tortillas.

This freaked me out. Won’t they break down, boiling for that long, unfried?

And 25 minutes later, my doubt was justified. They did indeed dissolve into bits. Odd. Is this standard for tortilla soup? I have always had it with intact pieces of tortilla.

Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

I couldn’t leave it there. I needed to have fried tortilla strips.

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Mmm, soon you will be mine.

And then, after they were finished frying, all was right with the soup. Observe:

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Tortilla Soup, aka Mexican Chicken Soup

And how was it, you may ask? Really good. The carrots were unusual, but not in a bad way. It’s a very satisfying soup; I really felt like it was revitalizing me. It’s a perfect soup for taking care yourself when sick, or just good comfort food. It’s lucky that I liked it, because I have an awful lot of it frozen. Josh and Nat refused to taste it, and opted to eat masses of shredded cheese for dinner instead. Oh well.

 

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