Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup (with Red Chile Sauce and Chorizo!)

It's cold up here in the Old Country right now. Darn cold! I'm wishing that I were back in Puerto Penasco right now, walking along the beach or enjoying a delicious hot meal in one of the town's great restaurants. But since I'm not there, I'll have to satisfy myself with a big pot of chicken soup, Mexican style, and do a little pretending.

There are lots of recipes for Chicken Tortilla Soup, but so many of them are nothing more than glorified chicken soup with tortilla strips added to masquerade it as Mexican. This one is the real thing, with a twist that's my own, so of course I think it's the best. So does Mr. La Huerita, but he might be biased. Anyway, this recipe is made with a salsa rojo to give it a good rich flavor, with the extra added bonus of some chorizo just because I had some on hand and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Well, it WAS a good idea, and you'll think so too.

I gave you a recipe for Homemade Chorizo, Sonoran Style earlier this year and it's darned good, but if you don't want to go to that extreme right now just buy some Mexican chorizo at your local supermarket and use that. A tip: Buy the best you can afford. Generally speaking, I've found that the more expensive brands of chorizo contain less fat, and have a better texture, too.

This recipe may look a bit complicated, but it is really very easy. If you have leftover cooked chicken or turkey you can substitute that, but it won't be as deliciously rich as cooking the chicken parts on the spot to make the initial soup base. I usually use chicken thighs and drumsticks; you can use whatever parts of the chicken you like best-- or cut up a whole one and use ALL of its parts!

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP (with red Chile Sauce & Chorizo)
Serves about 6

  • 3 dried ancho chiles
  • 4 dried guajillo chiles
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes (including juice)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 (15 oz) cans chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup canola oil, divided
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • 6 chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks (remove skin if desired)
  • 1/2 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed and crumbled
  • 4 to 6 day-old corn tortillas (torn into small pieces or sliced into strips)

Remove the stems, seeds, and membranes from the ancho and guajillo chiles, place them in a bowl then pour boiling water to cover and soak until chiles are softened, about half an hour.

When chiles are soft, place them in a blender with the tomatoes, garlic, onion and chicken broth. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Heat half the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat (this is the pot you'll be cooking the soup in, so be sure it's big enough to hold everything). When oil is hot, add the chicken legs and brown them (in batches if necessary). Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels.

While the chicken is browning, add the rest of the oil to a large skillet. When it begins to get hot, carefully stir in the chile mixture (it might spatter, so be careful!), then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.

When the chicken is all browned and removed from the pot, stir the chorizo into the same pot, breaking it up as it cooks. Stir until the chorizo is evenly browned, then drain any excess oil and stir in 1 cup of the chile sauce. Return the chicken to the pot, then add the remaining chile sauce. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until chicken is tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (If you like a thinner broth, add some water or more chicken broth to make it the consistency you like.) The chicken will be falling-off-the-bones tender.

While the soup is cooking, prepare your tortilla strips. Old, dried out tortillas work best for this (you don't want much moisture in the tortillas), but if you're starting with relatively fresh tortillas, put them in a 200°F oven on a baking sheet for 10-15 minutes to dry them out. Cut tortillas in half, then cut each half into 1/4-inch strips. In 3-quart saucepan, heat 1/4 Cup oil over medium-high heat (use peanut oil or grapeseed oil, or any oil with a high smoke point). Fry strips in oil, 1/3 at a time, until light brown and crisp. Remove from pan; drain on paper towels. Reserve.

Once the soup is ready, ladle into bowls, with two pieces of chicken per bowl, and top with tortilla strips. Garnish with chopped avocado, sliced radishes and a dollop of crema (or your favorite garnishes).

Serve this with a side of Mexican rice and/or beans, or just some fresh fruit (mango, pineapple, papaya, etc.)

Note that you can use packaged tortilla strips in place of the homemade tortilla strips to save time and effort, but you know nothing is better than homemade. ;)

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain