You likely won’t find a recipe for Tortilla Soup in your hand-me-down cookbooks. Tortilla Soup is a fairly recent newcomer to the culinary scene. Popularized in the American Southwest and northern Mexico, this soup is now sought after in far flung locales – even as far north as Canada. And why not? This soup is easy to make, flavourful, and satisfying either on a hot, hot day in July or on a cold, blizzardy day in January.
Tortilla Soup had its origins as a simple homemade chicken soup, until innovative chefs tried mixing it up a bit by topping the soup with fried tortilla strips, avocado chunks, chili salsa, lime juice and sometimes a sharp, grated cheese. The combination became so popular that what had been known as plain old chicken soup was renamed “Tortilla Soup” and has become a popular menu choice in many restaurants.
While Tortilla Soup may have entered the culinary world as recently as the late 70s, tortillas themselves have been around since 10,000 BC where, according to Mayan legend, tortillas were made of native corn with dried kernel.
For this recipe you can use tortillas that are somewhat old and dried out. However, if you choose to use fresh tortillas, bake them on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes in a 200 degree F oven to get the moisture out of them. Then, cut the tortillas into ¼ inch strips and fry over medium heat until brown and crisp. Pat the fat off with a paper towel and set aside until ready for use.
(If you’re interested in a lower fat content, instead of frying the strips, you can lay them on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes in a 300 – 325 degree F oven. Sprinkle lightly with salt before baking).
If you are someone who likes a bit of heat in your food, this soup is for you. If you have a more moderate palate, you might want to add a dollop of sour cream before serving to modify the heat. The beauty of this recipe is that it invites innovation. After all, that’s how it came into being!
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 pound tomatoes (2 large)
1 can 28-ounce tomatoes
¼ cup vegetable oil
6 stale corn tortillas
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup whipping cream
salt, to taste
thyme, to taste
Garnish: sour cream, guacamole, cheddar, lemon or lime wedges
Blend chilies, garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Fry tortillas. Heat chili mixture in a bit of oil for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add stock and boil. Add seasoning. Cook 3 to 4 minutes longer. Taste and adjust.
Variation: Add 1½ tablespoons chili powder and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.
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