Hearty chicken tortilla soup is ubiquitous in Mexico and the American Southwest, and recipes can vary almost restaurant to restaurant, household to household.
Overall, these soups fall into two types: one is a chunky chicken vegetable soup in a thin stock, and the other is a spicy tomato-based broth with the solids added at service, and both have their own merits. This particular recipe of the latter type is from the restaurant at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and has been the source of some notoriety and press for them even above their premier status. Only very slight changes have been made here for personal tastes.
The recipe as written calls for finishing the soup by straining out the solid bulk for a smoother consistency, to which are added the garnishes. However, a brief purée with a hand-held immersion blender will break up the cooked corn tortillas and leave the stock with a thicker, heartier texture.
Unlike many dishes, the garnishes here are not as optional as most and really serve to bring this soup together as a rounded meal. Use equal portions of sliced cooked chicken breast, diced avocado, shredded cheese and crispy fried tortilla strips. Rotisserie chicken is a great option as the stripped meat stays tender and juicy, and the bones can be used to make the stock.
Frying up your own strips is far superior to using bagged commercial tortilla chips, lending a much better flavor and tougher crunch that resists getting soft in the soup. For ordinary corn tortillas cut into half-inch-wide strips, usually only 30 seconds in hot oil is all it takes.
2 corn tortillas
3 cloves of garlic
½ white onion
1 plum tomato
2 T tomato paste
4 c chicken stock
1 t chili powder
2 T fresh cilantro
½ T ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 Purée the onion and tomato together until smooth. Chop the tortillas and garlic, and finely chop the cilantro.
2 Sauté tortillas, garlic and cilantro in corn oil until soft but not dark, about 5 min. Add the onion/tomato purée and fry for about 1 min more.
3 Add spices, tomato paste and stock, and season to taste with salt and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 min.
4 Remove the bay leaf and briefly purée the soup with an immersion blender to the desired consistency.