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chicken tortilla soup

December 15, 2008

You’ve probably figured out that I do not create my own recipes.  If I use a recipe exactly as is, I usually just link back to the original site.  If I alter it in some way, it is not because I’m being creative.  It is because I don’t have the right ingredients in the house, or I’m taking a short cut.  This is but a humble cooking abode.

This recipe is from December 2008’s Gourmet magazine.  I read it and thought – mmmm Mexico.  In our current weather, it seemed reasonable to be thinking of hot beaches while eating soup to keep warm.

I changed it somewhat because only had chicken drumsticks, not a whole chicken, we had rice last night, so I substituted quinoa, and chipotle chilis are toooo hot for me, so I just added a few drops of chipotle sauce instead.  I was cursing myself for embarking on making homemade chicken stock, as it took all afternoon. 

There was a lot to keep track of for this soup – the baked tortillas, the stock, the quinoa, the spices…it made my head spin.  Soup is never simple (unless it comes out of a can).  It is the delicate mixing of flavours that makes a good soup good.  And while it might sit there modestly in your bowl, there has likely been a fair amount of cook-sweat going into the thing.

I soldiered on.  It was worth it.  The soup was complex and smoky, with multi-layered flavours.  The quinoa (which ends up like popped corn kernels) made it quirky. 

In the end, here’s what it looked like:

I find soup difficult to photograph

Chicken Tortilla Soup
adapted from Gourmet

For stock:
2 carrots, coarsely chopped 
1 white onion, coarsely chopped 
5 chicken drumsticks
7 cloves garlic, halved crosswise
3 1/2 quart cold water
25 cilantro stems
2  bay leaves

For soup:
3 whole allspice
1 whole clove
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chipotle sauce
1 cup quinoa
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
6 corn tortillas 
3  tablespoons vegetable oil
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 firm-ripe avocados
2 limes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

Make stock:
Bring all stock ingredients to a boil with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in heavy stock pot.

Simmer for just under three hours on stove. (Start the soup fixin’s – below -while the stock is cooking).  Then pour stock through a sieve into a large bowl, pick out chicken drumsticks and discard solids. Put one cup of the stock in the blender and let cool.  Put rest of the stock back in the pot.

Soup Fixin’s: (You can start most of this when the stock is cooking)
Poke the sweet potato all over with a fork.  Cook in microwave for 6 minutes on high.  When cool, peel and cut into chunks.  In the meantime, cook the quinoa.  First rinse twice, and then let soak in 2 cups of water for half an hour.  Then cook on medium-high heat with lid on for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F. Stack tortillas and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips, then toss with vegetable oil. Spread strips in 1 layer on 2 large baking sheets and season with salt.

Bake, stirring frequently until golden 20 minutes.  Watch that they don’t burn!

Toast spices in a small frypan over medium-low heat, shaking skillet occasionally about 2 minutes.

Add spices to a blender along with onion, garlic, chipotle sauce, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and the reserved stock from above.  When the stock is completely cool, blend until mixture is smooth.

Add this purée to the remaining stock in pot.  Pull the meat off the reserved chicken drumsticks and add to pot.  Add sweet potatoes, black beans and quinoa.  Simmer until heated through, about ten minutes.

Serve with lime wedges, chopped cilantro, avocados and tortillas.


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