Let’s talk about my sweet tooth. She will not be denied. She demands vanilla syrup in my morning lattes, she requires I keep my fridge stocked with a variety of sweets, from grapes and apples to pints of ice cream, and about once a year she compels me to whip up (and I do mean whip) a batch of soft, fluffy homemade marshmallows. Since the last time I made marshmallows was these red, white and blue marbled ones for the Fourth of July last summer, I was just about due.
First let me tell you this: I’ve never not made a double batch of this stuff. I fill my trusty Dutch oven to the brim with all sorts of tomatoey, peppery, chicken brothy goodness, let it simmer away for a half an hour or so and blend it up with some masa until it’s thick enough to suspend a generous heaping of all my favorite toppings.
After first falling in love with tortilla soup at a kosher Mexican restaurant outside of Chicago, I devoted a few months to perfecting my own ideal version. I nixed the cream and added shredded chicken for healthier, heartier option. Of course, cumin and chili powder play a prominent role, but to me, the real stars of the show are the roasted peppers. I always throw in a poblano, jalapeño, and chipotle in adobo, but depending on how cold it is outside, I may toss in an extra serrano or two and maybe a dried chipotle fora little extra spice. And, as with most good soups, this only gets better with time, so it’s the perfect option for workweek lunches.
• 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp chili powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 cup diced onion (or half an onion)
• 1 roasted poblano
• 1 roasted jalapeño or serrano pepper
• 1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 14 1/2 oz cans of fire-roasted diced or crushed tomatoes
• 1 32 oz carton of chicken broth
• 3 cups hot water
• 1/3 – 1/2 cup masa (depending on desired thickness)
• sour cream
• red onion
• Fritos (trust me)
*Note: as written, this recipe has a pretty good kick to it! For a more mild option, skip the jalapeño and chipotle peppers.
1. Start by roasting your poblano and jalapeño under the broiler on high. Rotate the peppers every couple of minutes until all sides are nice and black, and the peppers are relatively soft. Let cool then roughly chop with the skins on. I like the little flecks of black and the slightly charred taste this adds to the finished soup.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili powder and salt together. Place your chicken breast in a small baking pan, drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil on top, then sprinkle on a small amount of your spice mixture. Set aside the rest of your spice mix.
2. Bake chicken for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Let cool then shred into small pieces with two forks (trust me, this is much easier to do once the chicken has cooled). Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking the chicken, so I just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, shred one of the breasts, sprinkle some of the spices on top and call it a day—works just as well!
3. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. I like to use my Dutch oven for this. Add onions and cook for about ten minutes, or until they are mostly translucent.
4. Add your remaining spice mix and stir to combine. Then, add in your poblano, jalapeño and garlic and stir it all up, making sure the spices coat everything.
5. Pour in the canned tomatoes, chicken stock and hot water. Plop in one or two of those delicious chipotles in adobo (you can leave them whole). Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes.
6. Grab your trusty immersion blender and go to town. Make sure everything is well blended, then start adding in the masa a few tablespoons at a time. Give it a good stir. The masa will be lumpy, but that’s okay—just keep blending until your soup is nice and smooth. I usually add closer to 1/2 cup of masa, because I like my soup to be thick enough to support a good heap of toppings, but you can add as little or as much as you want.
7. Add in the shredded chicken, ladle into bowls and garnish! After having tried store-bought tortilla chips, homemade tortilla chips and everything in between, I really have to say that I much prefer the under-appreciated Frito to top my soup. The strips are already the perfect size for each bite, they stay crispy far longer than your run-of-the-mill tortilla chip, and I find the extra punch of salt corn flavor they provide to add the perfect finishing touch.