Back in college, my friends and I would take trips to Mazatlan, Mexico. To say that we had a little fun is a bit of an understatement. We baked in the sun, talked to other college students from all across the U.S. and went to clubs I wouldn’t be caught dead in now. At the time, it was the best thing ever!
Believe it or not, one of the highlights I remember was a chicken tortilla soup served at a tiny corner restaurant. I feel like we went there almost every day for lunch. They would serve the soup with all the fixings on the side – avocado, crispy tortilla strips, cheese, etc. Once it was loaded up with the fixings, it was heaven in my mouth. The salty soup combined with the creamy cheese and crunch tortilla strips made my day.
Since 2002, I have been on the hunt for a recipe that did this soup justice. What I couldn’t put my finger on was what the broth was made of; chicken broth, onion broth, or something I had no clue about? The other thing that made it amazing was the crumbly cheese that melted just enough but still kept in tact when dropped into the soup. It wasn’t feta or goat cheese, but had a consistency similar to those if you mixed the two together.
After over 10 years of searching, I’m convinced I finally found a recipe that brings me back to those days. Once again, Food and Wine Magazine came through. I now know the broth is a chicken stock & tomato puree and the cheese is crumbled queso fresco found in the Mexican section at the grocery store. Duh. I can’t get over how similar this soup is to what we ordered in Mexico over 10 years ago. Now if I got some blue hair extensions and put on my backless shirt with hot pink shorts, I might think I was in Mexico while slurping on this soup. Oh the memories 🙂
What you need:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved
- 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 8 cups chicken stock
- Canola oil, for frying
- 6 corn tortillas, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 stick unsalted butter, diced
- 4 cups shredded chicken, from one 2 1/4-pound rotisserie chicken
- Crumbled queso fresco, dried chile, avocado and cilantro leaves, for garnish
What you do:
- In a saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened and starting to brown, 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chipotle chiles and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are very soft, 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1/4 inch of canola oil. Add half of the tortilla strips and fry over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the strips to paper towels. Season with salt. Repeat with the remaining strips.
- Carefully ladle half of the soup into a blender and add half of the butter. Puree until smooth. Pour the pureed soup into a large saucepan. Repeat with the remaining soup and butter.
- Stir in the shredded chicken and gently reheat the soup. Season with salt.
- Serve the soup in bowls, garnishing with queso fresco, chile, avocado, cilantro and tortilla strips.