Tomato Tortilla Soup

My first taste of tortilla soup was in Mexico several years ago. I have never forgotten the flavors and find myself constantly trying the various styles of these soups at restaurants. This soup is a warm and hearty soup that will fill you up on a cold winter night. It is very rich in color and the jalapeño pepper provides just enough heat so that it does not overpower the dish. The best part of cooking this recipe is the smell of the cumin mixed with the vegetables. It makes me fall in love with the spice every time.

A bowl of this with half a sandwich is a very satisfying meal. It can also be served as a dip with flour tortillas. The soup freezes well but it never lasts long in our house. Enjoy!

Tortilla Soup - Tomato Base

Tortilla Soup

Recipe

2 ears fresh corn, husks removed
5 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 small onion (about 3 ounces), peeled, trimmed, and quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, trimmed and seeded
2 Tbsp corn oil
2 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch squares
2 large ripe tomatoes (1 pound), peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 tsp ground cumin
2 quarts chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish:
5 corn tortillas
1 large chicken breast, cooked, boned, and skinned
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese grated
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (optional)
1/2 cup sour cream, (optional)

1. Using a large knife, carefully scrape the kernels off the corn cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs.

2. Using a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or a large knife, coarsely chop the garlic, onion, jalapeño pepper, and corn kernels. Reserve.

3. In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the squares of tortillas and cook over low heat until they are slightly crisp. Stir in the chopped vegetables and simmer just until the vegetables are coated with the oil. Do not brown.

4. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, and 2 teaspoons of the cumin and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes to maximize the flavor. Slowly pour in the stock, add the corn cobs, and cook over low heat until the soup is reduced by one-third.

5. Discard the corn cobs and purée the soup, in small batches, in a blender or food processor until smooth (do not fill the blender more than 1/3 full). At this point, the soup can be passed through the fine strainer, if desired. Return to a clean pot and season with salt, pepper, and additional cumin to taste.

6. Prepare the garnish: Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tortillas into thin strips and arrange on a baking tray. Bake until the strips are crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into thin strips or shred it.

7. To serve, add the chicken to the soup and reheat over low heat. Ladle the soup into 6 to 8 warm soup bowls and garnish with the baked tortilla strips, Cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Shortcuts and Notes:

Use frozen corn instead of cobs when unavailable or to shorten the effort. Approximately 1 1/4 cups equals 2 cobs. Use one can of diced tomatoes instead of the fresh when not in season.

CAUTION: The blender step is dangerous unless the soup is sufficiently cooled. Alternatively use a hand blender if you have one and then strain. You can also skip the straining effort if you don’t care if it is a consistent texture throughout especially if using a blender.

Servings: 8

Source: Adapted from a Wolfgang Puck recipe

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Vadalia Onion Soup

Soup production is back in full swing in our house now that the winter months are here. The decision is always which one to make this time. I often look to the many soups already posted in our database. The list of flavors range from Acorn Squash and Apple soup to Zucchini soup. However, when I am not surfing the web for a soup recipe, my favorite soup cookbook, the New England Soup Factory Cookbook is what I grab from the bookshelf. I have yet to make a soup from this book that was not a keeper. I am not sure if it still remains in print.

Monday evening I turned to page 12 for a favorite of ours, Vadalia Onion soup. It is very similar to a standard french onion soup, but with added sweetness from the onions and tomato paste. If you find it too sweet, you can cut back on the tomato paste. It has always been a hit with our guests and family. The picture below is shown without the cheese so you can see the texture and color of the soup.

Recipe

6 tbsp salted butter
8 large Vidalia onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 cups cream sherry, divided
3 tbsp tomato paste
16 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
croutons
grated Gruyere cheese

In a stockpot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to keep from sticking. Add garlic and continue to saute for 20 more minutes. Add 1 cup of the sherry. Deglaze the pan, stirring to loosen the cooked pieces at the bottom. Add the remaining 1 cup sherry, tomato paste, beef stock, and bay leaves. Increase heat to med-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour. Add corn starch mixture and increase heat to high. Turn off the heat adding the vinegar and salt and pepper.

Remove the bay leaves. Ladle into soup bowls or a large ramekins. Add croutons on top and then cheese. Put bowls on a cooking sheet and place under broiler until cheese is bubbly and brown.

Note: If you buy the onions at Costco, those are jumbo not large.