Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tortilla Soup with Roasted Chicken and White Corn

Though I love this time of year, and certainly enjoy our traditional holiday feasts, I tend to lean more toward ethnic cuisines...particularly those with Italian-, Mexican-, or Thai-based seasonings. Most anything with garlic, onions, and herbs will get my attention. And, of course, flavorful sauces and...yes...soups! So, with our tasty bird consumed and leftovers reinvented several times over into different meals, we're back to what I love best.

I have several tortilla soup recipes in my files, all of which I think are good and just slightly different from one another. This, however, has become our favorite. It has a great cumin- and coriander-based broth that is enriched by fresh white corn tortillas that give it a bit of structure (and great flavor) without making it too heavy. And the addition of veggies...the mirepoix of carrots, onion and celery, plus white corn...makes it a great, healthy, meal-in-one-pot dinner.

While you can prep your chicken just about any way you'd like...boil and shred, dice up and drop in raw to cook in the broth...I think roasted chicken works best. Whether you roast it yourself or simply buy a whole roasted chicken at the market really doesn't matter. It is, however, pretty easy to simply pop a few bone-in chicken breasts into the oven for just 30 to 40 minutes. Once they're done, just take them out to cool while you get your stock prepped. Super easy!

As noted, this recipe is adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Like most anything made often enough, you tend to bend things a little here or there until you get it the way you like it. I pumped up the flavor of the broth a bit, changed up the tomatoes a tad, and added white corn to the show (yum!).

Tortilla Soup with Roasted Chicken and White Corn
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa (2006 recipe)
serves 6 to 8

4 split, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (or 2 whole)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional to prep chicken for roasting)
kosher salt and black pepper (to prep chicken for roasting)

2 cups onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cups carrots, diced (I use the bagged baby carrots and avoid having to peel anything...the baby carrots are great right out of the bag and the perfect diameter to just slice up!)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts chicken stock (I used Pacific-brand Organic, Free-Range Chicken Broth...may have to add more stock on Day Two as soup will thicken some)
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juices (I used Muir Glen Organic)
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (I used 2)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
6 (6-inch) white corn tortillas
1 can (14-ounces) white canned corn, drained (I think the white vs. yellow makes a difference)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, to taste (more or less depending on saltiness of broth)
1 teaspoon black pepper, to taste

To roast chicken:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. When done, remove and let cool before shredding (discarding skin and bones).

1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook for about 10 minutes, until onions just begin to brown. Add garlic and cook another half minute. Add in chicken stock, tomatoes with juices, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on saltiness of stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and cilantro. 

I find that it's easiest to prep the jalapenos by simply 
chopping off the stem cap and a bit from the tip (to steady the pepper) and then just carve the outer layer away from the center seeds and membrane in strips. This way you don't mess with having to cut away membrane or scrape seeds. The heat in jalapenos is concentrated in the veins surrounding the seeds so limiting their usage will result in a more mild flavor.

2. Cut tortillas in half and then each half into half-inch strips. Add tortilla strips to soup. Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

4. Add roasted, shredded chicken and canned white corn. Let warm through and season with salt and pepper, if necessary, to taste. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado and/or a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

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