Nothing satisfies the appetite in the cold winter months more than a spicy, comforting soup. Sometimes in the winter months, my recipe ideas can become sparse. I end up making my go-to standards a bit too much and get to the point where I really want something different. After too many spaghetti dinners and chicken bakes, I was ready to mix things up. Often in the winter, I stop making Mexican dishes except for a few quesadilla dinners, mostly because I tend to associate Mexican dishes with the fresh produce the summer brings. However, I still get those cravings for the delicious Mexican flavors that I love during the winter. The other day with limited ingredients in my kitchen, I realized that the ingredients that I did have would make for a good Mexican dish. With chicken and corn in the freezer as well as a cilantro and roasted red pepper pesto that I made in the summer, these ingredients were screaming to be a part of a spicy meal. A couple of tortillas, a can of crushed tomatoes, and some sour cream were the items that brought the Chicken Tortilla Soup idea into play.
The soup turned out to be quite successful and I know this because my husband, my most honest critic, loved every bite of this spicy, rich soup. As rich as this soup tastes, loaded with vegetables and lean chicken, it is surprisingly healthy. This soup can be as simple or complex as you choose. If you don't have all of the ingredients in my recipe, then don't fret. What really matters is the seasoning. The addition of the cilantro and roasted red pepper pesto was spontaneous. In the summer months with more cilantro than I knew what to do with, I made a pesto out of it to freeze for a later use-not really knowing how I would ever use it. After roasting some red bell peppers, I added the peeled and seeded peppers, garlic, cilantro, fresh lime zest and juice and olive oil to a food processor to make this tasty pesto. Since you may not have this pesto lying around your kitchen, feel free to substitute with fresh cilantro, roasted red bell pepper and the zest and juice of half of a lime.
Lizzy M.'s Chicken Tortilla Soup
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dash of crushed red pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup corn, fresh from the cob or frozen
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Dash of allspice
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp liquid smoke
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups water
8 oz. crushed tomato
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (Use 1 chicken breast for 2 people.)
2 tbsp cilantro and roasted red pepper pesto
In a large pot, add a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of crushed red pepper over medium to high heat. Once the oil is heated, then add the chopped onion and celery and a dash of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir the vegetables to mix well with the olive oil and saute for 4 minutes. Next, add the corn and saute for another 3-5 minutes. Now it is time for some seasoning. Turn the heat down a bit to medium, and into the pot add the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, tomato pasted and garlic. Stir the ingredients well to incorporate, and saute for 3 minutes. Now, that the flavor base is there; it is time to add almost everything else. Next, you want to boost the flavor even more with the addition of the red wine vinegar, liquid smoke, chicken bouillons, water, and crushed tomato. Stir all ingredients well. On a medium to low heat, cover the pot and allow these flavors to cook and marry for 15 minutes.
With your soup simmering, now place a clean and trimmed boneless, skinless chicken breast directly into the soup. Push the chicken down into the soup, so that the liquid is covering the chicken. Cover the pot and cook the chicken for 15 minutes, turning the chicken over once during the cooking time. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let the chicken sit in the soup for another 5 minutes. Remove the chicken onto a cutting board at this point. Let the chicken rest for another 3-5 minutes before shredding the meat. Take 2 forks and pull them through the chicken in opposite directions until the chicken is well shredded. You can also use a knife to thinly slice the chicken, whichever you prefer.
Return the shredded chicken to the soup pot and bring back to a low simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste the soup to see if the seasoning is to your liking. If not, then add more here. Also, add in the cilantro and red pepper pesto or substitute with fresh chopped cilantro, chopped roasted red pepper and lime zest and juice. Stir well.
Serve this comforting bowl of soup steaming hot garnished with a dollop of sour cream and tortilla chips. Feel free to also add a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese or some chopped scallions and cilantro right on top. This healthful and affordable meal is perfect anytime whether it be a weeknight, weekend or even for a large gathering. This meal is easy to make for lots of people, so my Chicken Tortilla Soup is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at your Superbowl party or for any festive gathering. Try this recipe today to shake up your winter recipe repertoire.