Why You Definitely Need to Make Chicken Tortilla Soup
I’m all about comfort—sweatpants, hair-tied, chilling with no makeup on comfort. And there is no better dish to prepare when I’m craving a meal that’s as warm and gentle as a big ol’ hug from mom than chicken tortilla soup. It meets all my very specific, very important requirements for a dish that I make for myself on a Sunday cooking bout. It’s simple, cheap, highly versatile, makes for some banging leftovers, and when I consume it in front of others, they are jealous/impressed.
So here’s how it’s done: In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat some oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, peppers (jalapeños are good, ‘cause you know you like it hot), zucchini, and any other veggies you might want floating around this soup. Cook down these components until the onions are translucent. Toss in some minced fresh garlic, bay leaves (if you have ‘em), and whatever spices you deem worthy—cumin, paprika, and chili powder are my faves, but you do you. While you’re here, go ahead and throw in a hefty handful of fresh cilantro leaves (hate this herb? Well fine, then. Leave it out).
Next, add a can (or 2) of diced tomatoes and several cups of chicken stock, or enough to create a consistency of soup you’re happy with. At this point, you can throw in a can of drained black beans, fresh or frozen corn kernels, and shredded chicken (I use either rotisserie or poached breasts). Let the broth come to a boil, then let it all simmer down for 10 minutes or so—just to allow all of the flavors to combine. Help yourself to a spoonful of the broth (blow first, it’s hot). What does it need? More salt and pepper? How are we doing on spices? Give it some more cumin, probably won’t hurt.
And now for toppings, a crucial component to any kitchen endeavor. Sliced radishes, diced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, a couple drops of hot sauce, queso fresco, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream all have a welcome place atop my bowl of soup. Also, duh, let’s not forget about the tortilla. Grab a stack of corn tortillas, cut them into triangular wedges, brush them with a bit of oil, and bake them at 350° on a rimmed baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Like toasted spices or nuts, these can go from warm and nutty to burnt to a soul-crushing crisp in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye on them. If you want a more pronounced corn-like flavor in your soup, you can even add strips of the corn tortillas in the very first step (when you’re cooking the onions), allowing a sweet, grainy essence to permeate the broth.
My favorite part of this cold weather delight is plating it with all the garnishes strewn about the top. In other words, you bet your a** it’s going to make major waves on the ‘gram. If you’re having company, this a fun dish to serve, as guests can customize their chicken tortilla soup experience with their desired toppings. Just the same, it makes for an easy, packable lunch that you won’t be dreading all day—just seal your fix-ins’ in a separate zip-top bag, and you can assemble it right at your own desk while all your envious coworkers gaze longingly at your marvelous creation. Now that’s comfort. I just hope you showed up in work-appropriate pants, with your hair done(ish), and being somewhat productive with maybe a touch of makeup on.