The weather in Southern California has been unusually chilly with temperatures dropping into the mid to high 20’s at night in parts of San Diego. This might still be considered “warm” in some parts of the world, but for us it is COLD! BRRRR!!!! However, the chilly weather is the perfect excuse to cook up the best tortilla soup I’ve ever tasted. It will warm your bones and make your tummy very happy!
A good friend of mine discovered this recipe many moons ago when the San Diego Union Tribune included a few recipes out of Southern California Cooking From The Cottage in the weekly food section when they were promoting the sale of The Cottage’s cookbook. (I own, LOVE, and use this cookbook very frequently.) She only had to make it once before I was hooked! I have been making this soup for many years now and have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love it (even my picky toddler eats it!) This hearty soup is like an open bottle of wine in my house – there is never any left over.
*** I have given the original recipe a few twists to it keep dairy and soy free. If you have food allergies, always, always, always, check the ingredients of the products you are using to ensure they are free of the items you are allergic too – it is not uncommon for your favorite brands to change the ingredients in a product. This soup can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free products***
You will need:
1 Tablespoon canola oil
½ of a medium to large sized yellow onion chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 jalapeño finely diced
4-5 medium sized tomatoes chopped (Roma or on-the-vine tomatoes are great choices)
1 handful of cilantro chopped
8 cups of chicken stock or broth (if you aren’t using homemade broth and aren’t eating gluten, make sure you select a gluten free broth)
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 6.75 oz box of Near East Rice Pilaf Spanish Rice (the Near East website says they cannot guarantee this product is gluten free due to possible cross contamination – if you wish to make this soup gluten free please substitute a gluten free rice mix of your liking)
1 small roasted or boiled whole chicken shredded (if purchasing a whole roasted chicken prepared by your grocery store, please check ingredients carefully for allergens)
2 cups canola oil
Avocado slices or cubes (optional)
Cilantro as garnish (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)*
Sour cream (optional)*
*In case it isn’t obvious, don’t add cheese or sour cream to your soup if you are looking for a dairy free dining experience.
OK, let the fun begin!
Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. As the oil is heating, chop your onion and add it to the pot. While the onion is sautéing, mince your garlic and add it to the pot. Next, slice your jalapeño in half length wise, remove seeds and stem, finely dice the rest of the pepper and you guessed it, add it to the pot. (You don’t need to have all of your ingredients prepped in advance – you can chop as you go, just remember to stir what is already sautéing periodically.) Pull a handful of cilantro off its stems, rinse, chop and add to pot. Chop your tomatoes and add to the pot as you chop them. Remember to stir periodically. Once your tomatoes are soft, add 8 cups of chicken broth or stock and bay leaf if using. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Add the rice and seasoning packet. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
While your soup is simmering begin shredding your chicken. Add shredded chicken to soup once the rice is tender (about 20-25 minutes). Continue to simmer for 15 minutes or longer to really enhance the flavors of the soup while you are preparing your tortilla strips.
In a sauce pan, add 2 cups of canola oil and heat over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, cut corn tortillas into ¼ strips. Once the oil is hot enough, add a handful or two of strips to the oil and fry. Remove tortilla strips from oil once they are golden in color and have a crunchy texture. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and season with a dash of salt. Repeat until all strips are fried.
TIP: Make sure your oil is HOT. If it isn’t, your tortilla strips will be chewy. Also, make sure all parts of your strips are covered in oil when frying and that they have room to do the wiggle dance. (This may mean you need more oil that what I have listed above depending on the size of your pot.) If you overcrowd your pot with tortilla strips you will get uneven cooking – part of your strips may be burned, while other parts are be chewy – no bueno!!! Trust me; you do not want to speed up your strip frying process by throwing them all in at once. Slow is fast here.
Once your strips are cooked, ladle the soup into bowls, top with tortillas strips and other toppings of your choice.
Add a green salad, and a margarita or a chilled Sol and you have the perfect south of the border style meal! You even can make this soup ahead of time and throw it in a crock pot for parties. (Looking for a Super bowl meal idea? This is just the ticket!)
Is anyone else’s mouth watering yet???