Chicken Tortilla Soup

In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, SoupAddict is a summer girl. I harbor a general resentment against snow, as it keeps me from my gardens (which are still producing leeks and various herbs). So, when it snows (and Mother Nature saw fit to drop 10″ in the last 12 hours), I turn to one of my favorite soups for comfort on this bleak February day.

Coming off the previous night’s dinner that was so pepper-hot it completely shut down my taste buds (more on that another day), I wanted something warm and creamy, with a gentle spice heat that stimulates the senses without overwhelming them. Call SoupAddict wimpy, but I simply do not understand the appeal of super-hot spices. Then again, there are probably plenty of people who don’t understand how someone, like SoupAddict, can eat a bowlful of plain, buttered pasta and be completely, blissfully happy.

This soup, however, should satisfy both sides of the bland-hot debate. And if you should feel it’s still too one-way-or-the-other, adjust the seasonings to suit. Soup is flexible and agreeable like that. That’s why SoupAddict [hearts] soup.


Veggie-lovin’ SoupAddict happily loads down this soup with peppers. The poblano peppers (dark green pepper on the right) looked more than halfway decent at the store, so she grabbed one. Sometimes, it’s a serrano. Or an Anaheim. But always, always a red bell pepper. I do loves da red bell – I can eat them like apples.


Of all the noble characters in this picture, my eyes will always drift to the cheeses. My local grocery store carries an impressive variety of cheese, including the chipotle jack, top left. I loves chipotle peppers, and keep an entire jarful of dried chipotles in my spice collection. When I saw this cheese, I immediately grabbed it, even though I wasn’t thinking about the tortilla soup at the time — that was just serendipity, plain and simple.


I also love that my local grocery also carries in-store rotisserie chicken. SoupAddict is sometimes lazy (gasp!) and appreciates the convenience of a pre-cooked chicken (as well as the excuse to pull of the delicious skin and eat it while no one is looking. But you didn’t hear that here, no sir).


SoupAddict loves this part of soup-making almost as much as the soup-eating: the sauteing of the veggies and the spices.


The rotisserie chicken is quick to pull apart, and provides a nice combination of white and dark meat. Remove the skin and [chomp] discard. It’s not healthy [nom nom nom], dontcha know.


The soup has been simmering for about 20 minutes and smells divine.


Yup, SoupAddict likes a lot of cheese in her cheese sauce.


Action photo goodness! A long exposure of the cheese sauce as it’s being added to the soup. SoupAddict likes cheese. Mmmmm, cheese. Cheese is good. Cheese is SoupAddict’s friend.


Now that’s the stuff, bay-bee.


I always makes a lot of chicken tortilla soup because of this. This – this – is the next day. The soup has spent the night in the fridge and, after dodging the bold advances of the past-its-sell-date Black Forest ham, has developed an incredible blend of flavors and a creamy, thickened texture.

What you can’t tell from this picture is that the spoon is slightly angled downward, but the soup is still clinging to it.


Soup for lunch? Yes, please.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

Soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 poblano pepper or green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
15 ounces can tomato puree
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound cooked chicken, cubed or pulled

Cheese sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream, half and half or milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces cheese, grated (use your favorite or a mix of favorites)

Garnish
Tortilla chips, crumbled (or if you can find them, tortilla strips)
Sour cream
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)

Instructions:

1. Make the soup: Heat oil and butter in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté onions, celery and garlic until soft.

2. Add a splash of chicken stock, and then the red bell, poblano or green bell and jalapeno peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes to soften.

3. Add all of the spices (salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, sugar, chili powder), and stir until fragrant.

4. Add the remaining chicken stock, tomato puree and Worchestershire sauce. Mix well and bring to boil.

5. Add chicken, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes (or more – the longer a soup simmers, the better!)

6. Make the cheese sauce: Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in flour to create a paste.

7. Slowly add the dairy, stirring constantly, until a thick, creamy sauce is formed. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Add grated cheese and stir to completely incorporate into the sauce.

8. Add cheese sauce to the soup, stirring to mix well. The soup should now be creamy, but not necessarily spoon-hugging thick.

9. To serve: ladle into bowls, then sprinkle on cilantro. Add a spoonful of sour cream and top with tortilla chips/strips.

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