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Tortilla Soup

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Everyone seems to have their own version for tortilla soup. Some are thick, some are thin, some are creamy, some are brothy, some are red, some are green. This one’s mine. Without the fried tortilla strips, this soup wouldn’t be much. It would still taste good, but the tortilla strips make the meal.
I don’t think I’d ever had tortilla soup before I moved to Texas, but it is prolific here. You can adjust the spiciness to your liking, and optional toppings include avocado strips, cilantro, fresh lime, and shredded cheese.
For the fried tortilla strips, take caution in heating your oil to the proper temperature. Frying at lower temperatures results in extra oil absorption, 375 really is the perfect temp. I generally use canola oil for frying, for reasons I’ve discussed here [3]. But you could also fry in another oil with a high smoke point like peanut oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower, or safflower oils to your liking.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 whole chicken
4 split breasts with skin
5 stalks celery chopped
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, diced (not sweet, or maui, but yellow – white will work if you can’t find them)
3/4 of a 1lb bag of baby carrots
4 cloves whole garlic
1-2 tsps crushed red pepper
1 diced yellow onion ( this is not a repeat it’s for a separate step)
2 tsp oregano leaves
2 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves whole
1/2 a jalapeno, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 1/2 large cans diced organic tomatoes – get the most expensive kind at the grocery – it doesn’t cost that much more – but adds alot – if you can find the ones in glass instead of canned – even better
10 tortillas
a whole bunch of canola oil
I use an 8qt stock pot – but really I wish I had a bigger one

I use a leftover roasted whole chicken. I roast a lot of chickens, and we only eat the breasts so this is essentially a whole chicken sans breasts. Before I roast it I add 4 garlic cloves, 1 lemon quartered, 2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper to the inside. After I make it and serve it, I throw the whole thing in a bag in the freezer and it will keep for several months if needed.

Pull the chicken from the freezer, put in pot, add split breasts, cover with water and add 1 1/2 tbsps salt. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium and cook for at least an hour – the longer the better. Add celery, onions, carrots, garlic, and red pepper. Cook for another hour at least. Really you can’t overcook this, use as much time as you can gather.

Saute onion in a separate pan in olive oil – about 2 swirls. Keep it on medium high, but watch it to make sure you don’t burn your onions. Cook til soft and translucent, probably 10 minutes. Halfway through, season with salt, pepper and oregano. Add garlic, jalapeno, and bay leaves, saute for 3 more minutes. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 4-5 more minutes. Turn off heat.

Remove chicken from soup to a large bowl. The longer you’ve cooked it the more it will be falling apart, so you will need to carefully go through the soup with a slotted spoon to get all the pieces. Discard everything but your split breasts. Pull the bones and skin from the split breasts and shred the chicken. It will be very easy and just fall apart.

Add tomato and onion mixture to stock, then add shredded chicken. Stir and let simmer for 20-30 min then taste and adjust seasonings.

In a large, heavy bottom skillet add about an inch to an inch and a half of canola oil. Heat until 375 – this is vital, if you don’t have a thermometer, heat for 8 min on high then start testing with teensy pieces of tortilla. You want it to instantly bubble heavily when added. Cut tortillas into strips. Add about 10-15 at a time to oil and turn occasionally, frying until golden. Remove to plate covered with paper towels and salt immediately with sea salt. Repeat. Watch your heat, at some point, you will have to reduce the heat from high to med-high. You can tell when the tortillas start browning nearly immediately or if your thermometer reads over 400.

Serve soup with tortilla strips on top. You can also garnish with avocado slices and cilantro if you so choose, but I never go to the trouble, of course, I don’t really like those.

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