My favorite chicken tortilla soup

Craig was at a match near the Canadian border on Saturday, about 1.5 hours from home. It was cold and kinda drizzly , so I figured he’d want a hot meal when he got home. So I made chicken tortilla soup.

I was out of chicken stock, so started off by poaching a couple chickens. To poach chickens, you’ll want to heat your water to between 165 and 185º. By the way… Raw chicken is totally gross. I know that, but it’s a necessary part of most cooking unfortunately. Get over it, lots of raw stuff that we eat cooked is totally gross.

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Then rinse your chickens, remove the necks and organs and stuff from the cavities, but keep them, they’ll add to the stock.

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OMFG WTF IS THIS? IT CAME OUT OF ONE OF THE CHICKENS!?!?!?!?!? ESOPHAGUS?

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Add the chickens to the water and keep an eye on the temperature. If it gets too hot, they’ll overcook easily and the meat will get dry. Skim as much foam off the top as you can with a slotted spoon. It’s just proteins and stuff.

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Once the chicken is firm (or an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160º), pull it out and allow it to cool before shredding. Turn off the pot, but leave the necks and whatever internal organs you got with the chickens in there. Once the chickens is cooled down, pull the skin off and shred the meat up, pulling out tendons and blobs of fat and whatnot. Save all of the chicken refuse to put back into the pot.

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Add the chicken wreckage back to the pot with an onion that has been quartered, a couple carrots(or several baby carrots), a couple ribs of celery, a bay leaf, and a head of garlic that’s been cut in half horizontally (so each clove has been cut in half). Bring it to a LOW simmer and keep it there for 5-9 hours. I left the lid off my pot so that half the water would evaporate, concentrating the flavors.

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For the preceding part, you could easily buy a rotisserie chicken and a couple boxes of chicken stock, but that’s the easy way out, and rotisserie chicken has a decidedly rotisserie flavor that I find a little offputting. I cant describe it.

Then you’ll want to start on the big flavor portion of the soup. Get 6 tomatoes. Romas were on sale so I used them. Wash them with soap, then halve them and drizzle with olive oil/sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Put in the oven at 400º for about 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler and keep an eye on them. When they start getting black spots, flip them over and watch for black spots again. When they are done, pull them out of the oven and turn off the broiler.

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While you’re doing this, get a pan nice and hot and throw 4 dried pasilla peppers in it, turning them every now and again, getting them nice and smokey. When you feel they’re done (totally arbitrary, btw), pull them out of the pan and rip them open, removing the stems and seeds, then soak in some boiling hot water for about 20 minutes to soften them.

Sauté an onion and some garlic, it doesn’t have to be chopped up nicely, just soften it, don’t burn it.

Put the tomato-onion-garlic-chile mixture into the blender and puree thoroughly. Then pour it into a mesh strainer to get all of the seeds and skins out. You’ll have to work the mixture through the sieve but eventually you’ll have a paste leftover in the strainer and most of the liquid outside of it. That’s what you’re looking for.

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The finished product:

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Then you’ll want to make your tortilla strips. Heat some heat-loving oil (I used corn oil) to 350º and fry up strips of tortilla that have been cut with either a pizza cutter or a knife.

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The trick to getting voluptuous and curvy tortilla strips (instead of boring flat ones) is to put several into the hot oil, and while they’re still soft, stir them furiously(be careful!) so they bend up and then eventually freeze up in that shape.

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Ok, when you’re about an hour from dinner time, pull the stock mixture off of the stove, let it cool for 30 minutes, and strain. Add about 3 quarts to a good soup pot with the tomato mixture. Let it cook for 20 minutes, with the lid off to reduce a little. 10 minutes before eating, add as much chicken in as you want, and just before serving, put in a few tablespoons of lime juice. Taste, adjust salt, it’ll probably need a considerable amount.

While the stock is cooling, prepare your sides. Of course the tortillas will have been done already, but you’ll need sour cream (or crema if you have a mexican grocery store near your house – creme fraiche would also work for this, but that’s generally something you have to make or pay a million dollars for, and really, sour cream works fine). You’ll also want avocados that have been cubed, some grated cheese, & chunks of cilantro. I also made some fresh salsa because I got carried away with deep frying and made some chips also.

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To serve, ladle some of the soup into your bowl, top with tortilla strips, a dollop of sour cream, some cheese, avocado and cilantro.

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As an aside- I got the greatest gel from this chicken stock. The soup itself, even with the tomato mixture mixed in is SOLID when chilled. It turns out that rotisserie birds are cooked so long that additional cooking denatures the natural gelatin in their bones. To get a truly epic gel – don’t cook your bird or bones too long.

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