RECIPE. Mar 2, 2010

Sopa de Tortilla

The first time I traveled outside the United States, other than Canada, was to Mexico with my mom. We were embarking on a girls weekend and we had a phenomenal time. The highlight for me, as predicted, was the food. I was especially incapacitated around this incredible soup. Sopa de tortilla. It sounded like a romantic phrase, meant to entice a lover and entice me it did. When we left the country to return home, I craved this soup with ferocity. Every time I returned, I made a point of ordering this soup in as much quantity and as often as possible. It was something about the familiarity of the tomato base, with the stringiness of the cheese and the depth of the avocado, highlighted with the sharp surprise of lime and cilantro. The blend of all these favorite was an intimately pleasurable experience. I stumbled upon a recipe that appeared within my reach, and I invited some friends to participate in the experiment. It was delightful.

I have returned to Mexico several times with my mother and often it is to relax, enjoy and embark on adventures. I have brought friends, family and my spouse. My husband and I just returned from our most recent trip, with a stronger love for family and a new appreciation for those that love us. My husband’s passport was stolen and in order to get home he was challenged to cross the border at Tijuana. With lots of love, prayers and thoughts sent his way, he succeeded and found refuge in the home of my best friend’s parents. This soup reminds me a lot of this trip. Somewhat frustrating and foreign but full of love, warmth and keeps you coming back again and again.

Place chili in small, heatproof bowl; pour boiling water over and let soak 30 minutes. While chili is sitting, I usually start this recipe by cutting all the vegetables and placing them in a bowl together. Once chili is done, drain, remove stem and seeds. Slice into 1/2 inch strips and set aside.

In heavy Dutch oven or soup pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper. Brown both sides, about 10 minutes. Add onion, carrots and celery. Continue to cook about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and cumin and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes, reserved chili and cilantro and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

With your hands, tear 3 tortillas into 2-inch strips and add to the soup. Continue to simmer about 15 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove chicken to a cutting board; take soup off heat. With an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth (or puree in small batches in a blender or food processor). With two forks, shred chicken; return to soup. Season soup taste with salt and pepper.

Slice remaining tortillas into 1/4 inch strips. In small sauce pan heat oil until very hot. Fry tortilla strips until crisp, about 1 minute, turning often. With a slotted spoon, removed strips to a paper-towel lined plate and season with salt.

Serve soup in bowls topped with tortilla strips and any or all of optional garnishes. You may substitute tortilla chips if you don’t feel like frying the strips but it’s not as incredible. You can also make your own Mexican sour cream by adding lime juice from 1/2 fresh lime and about 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Consistency should be like sour cream.