You probably are wondering why I'm writing about tortilla soup in the midst of our glorious heat wave (70's and 80's) In Steamboat. Well, sadly it's because my husband is sick (I was sick with the same thing last week) and I wanted to make him something to help him feel better. Well, that and it's Mexican. If the meal is Mexican, even when it's soup and warm outside, I feel like it's okay. Hot Mexican food is a free pass during the summer. This particular recipe comes from Eva Longoria Parker, also known as "Gaby Solis" on Desperate Housewives. I decided to make this for a number of reasons. It looked like an authentic tortilla soup recipe and Eva is Mexican, so we had that going for us. Then, there was the fact that she serves this at her (and Chef Todd English's) restaurant, Beso. And finally, Jeremy loves Mexican food and this recipe called for ancho chilies to be pureed and added to the soup and I knew it would help his stuffy nose.
The chili paste
I'm glad I decided to make it. It was very good. It's not a Longoria family recipe though. Eva modified the traditional dish on her own. She has said that she has adjusted the recipe over many, many years. It's light and easy (don't let the soaking the dried ancho peppers and puring them into a paste scare you. It's super quick) and you can make it more filling by adding grilled chicken. We had this for lunch, but it could just as easily be a light dinner, or a first course.
I feel like I should tell you, in case you don't read the recipe all the way through, that this particular recipe calls for straining the soup at the end to get rid off all the solids, like herbs, onion and tomato chunks so all you are left with is a flavorful broth. I actually love this idea. It makes for pretty presentation because when you go to serve this, you first mound up your grilled sliced chicken and half an avocado, cut into chunks into the bottom of a shallow bowl. Then you add a bunch of fried tortilla strips and cilantro to top. Then you ladle in the hot tortilla soup broth so it encircles the whole thing. Top the everything off with queso fresco (white crumbly Mexican cheese, that they sell in grocery stores...sometimes called cojita cheese) and you're in business.
adapted from Beso restaurant, Eva Longoria Parker
3 dried ancho chile peppers (with the bell peppers in Safeway, or in Mexican section)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 bay leaves
4 springs fresh thyme
1 -2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
3/4 to 1 cup crumbled queso fresco
2 avocados, diced
4 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips and fried
1 to 2 tablespoons sour cream (optional)
Bring a saucepan of water up to a boil and add the dried peppers in, turn off the heat and cover. Let them soak for 15 minutes, or until soft. Drain the chile's, and discard the stems and as many seeds as you can. Transfer to a blender and process to make a smooth puree (use some water if needed to loosen up the mixture to help make a paste).
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 1/4 cup chili puree, the coriander seeds and cumin and cook about 5 minutes. Add the broth, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes (I smashed the tomatoes against the pot to break then up a little and let the juice out). Strain the broth through a medium-mesh strainer into another pot, discarding the solids. Season the broth with salt and heat up again ( I needed a lot of salt. If it tastes bland at all, add more salt and it won't. Salt brings out all the flavor).
Place a small amount of chicken, avocado, tortilla strips, cilantro and queso fresco in each bowl, then pour about 1 cup of the hot broth around the garnishes. Add sour cream if desired.
I cut my tortillas into thin strips and fried them in a small skillet in olive oil over medium to med-high heat until crispy. As for the chicken, I didn't add any. But I'm sure marinated in a little lemon juice, thyme, olive oil and salt for about 20 minutes before grilling would be great. Either that or sprinkle it with blackening seasoning and grill for more flavor.
This soup is not spicy so don't be afraid to add the whole 1/4 cup of ancho chile paste. In fact I wish it was a smidge spicier, which is why the recipe calls for 6-8 cups of stock. The original recipe calls for 8 cups, which is what I used, but I think it would have even been better had I reduced the broth to 6 cups. It would have had a more concentrated flavor. But please, do what you like.