On Thursday night, our book club met at my friend Liesel’s up in the hills in Silver Lake (a view like you wouldn’t believe from downtown to the beach) to discuss The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Liesel made tortilla soup, which she served in colorful fiestaware bowls topped with luscious chunks of perfectly ripe avocado and a black bean salad on the side. It was so comforting and cozy on a rainy night that I begged Liesel for the recipe so I could do a repeat last night.
Turns out, she adapted a recipe from Diane Rossen Worthington’s SOUP book. Liesel grills the chicken breast, and uses pepper jack instead of Montery Jack cheese. Also, she heats the tortillas whole in a fry pan (instead of deep frying tortillas cut into strips in 1/2 cup vegetable oil, as the original recipe calls for). I’ve split the difference and heated a tablespoon of canola in a frying pan and lightly fried the whole tortillas, and sliced after. Taking a page from a local Mexican restaurant in my hometown growing up, I like to place the tortilla strips in the bowl with some shredded cheese before pouring in the hot soup so that it gets all melty and good. Also, I like La Gloria tortillas made in downtown LA, available in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods. (Do not even get me going on how difficult it was to locate tortillas in the Whole Foods on Fairfax/Third – totally counter-intuitive – but ultimately worth the hunt.) Oh, and I got one of those huge organic boneless, skinless Mary chicken breasts at Whole Foods as well.
For recipe click READ MORE below.
TORTILLA SOUP WITH CHICKEN AND AVOCADO
(Adapated from Williams-Sonoma Soup by Diane Rossen Worthington)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup drained Roma (plum) tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups (32 ounces) organic chicken stock
1 skinless, boneless organic chicken breast (about 1/2 lb), cut into bite-sized strips
Salt and pepper
4 corn tortillas, preferably stale and dry
1 dried ancho chile, seeded
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 lime, halved
In a frying pan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. Add sliced onions, garlic, and the two teaspoons cilantro and sauté just until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
In a blender, combine sautéed mixture and tomatoes and blend until smooth. In the same frying pan over medium-high heat, warm another 1 tablespoon of oil. Add tomato mixture and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and darkened, 5-6 minutes.
Transfer mixture to large saucepan over medium-low heat and add stock. Cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally, until soup is lightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add chicken strips and simmer until just opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. (If using pregrilled chicken breast, add just before serving.)
While soup is simmering, heat 1 tablespoon oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. Drop in tortillas and fry until crisp and browned, using tongs to turn, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan, cut into strips and set aside.
In small frying pan over medium heat, toast chile until fragrant, about 7 minutes. (Careful not to let it burn.) Let cool.
When ready to serve soup, crumble chile into soup. Between four bowls, evenly divide tortilla strips, remaining chopped cilantro, sprinkle some grated pepper jack, and ladle soup into four bowls. Squeeze lime to taste into each bowl. Top with avocado, and additional cheese if desired.