In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add half the tortilla strips and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.
Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion, garlic, and spices; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cilantro leaves, if using, and one-third of the tortilla strips. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes; remove the bay leaves.
In a blender, puree the soup in batches; pour it back into the pot. Add the chicken, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook until just done, about 1 minute. Stir in the avocado.
To serve, put the remaining tortilla strips in bowls, top with the cheese, and pour in the soup. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro, if using, and serve with the lime wedges.
Wine Recommendation: A Rioja Reserva, with its complex combination of spicy, earthy, and fruity flavors, will echo the taste of the soup beautifully.
I love this soup! It takes a bit of work, but its so good! We think it tastes very much like something you would get at a Mexican restaurant. Definitely make sure to add the avocadoes once the soup is ready to be served. They push the recipe out of this world. :)
This recipe is easy and delicious. I don't put the tortilla strips in until i put it in the bowl or else it gets soggy. I also freeze this soup for later dates and it tastes great! I also double the broth and tomatoes and cayenne pepper and use shredded chicken.
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