Jim's Chicken Tortilla Soup

I've tried tortilla soup in many restaurants over the years, some are ok, some have left me wishing I'd ordered something else. This week I was inspired to make a batch myself. I began by looking at recipes online, some sounded good, some were downright goofy.

My habit is to avoid recipes that call for a can of this and a can of that, but rather than make this complicated, I resorted to 3 canned ingredients: tomatoes, black beans and hominy. If you have any of those on hand, made from scratch, certainly use them.

I found a recipe that sounded pretty good but as always happens when I try to follow someone else's recipe, I thought of ways I'd rather do it. So what follows is my recipe and you're welcome to share it. When I served it last night, Josh declared, "This is the best soup you've ever made!" I think I'm a pretty good soup maker so I was pleased at the compliment. I have to agree that it is the best tortilla soup I've ever eaten. Don't be put off by the ingredient list, it's worth the effort.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
6 tablespoons cooking oil
8 6-inch corn tortillas, folded in half and sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
*1 tablespoon paprika
*2 teaspoons ground cumin
*1 teaspoon coriander
*1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 12 quarts chicken broth
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes if that's all you have on hand)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves plus 3 tablespoons chopped for topping
2 large, cooked chicken breasts, diced
1 11-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 11-ounce can golden hominy, drained
1 avocado diced
1/4 pound grated cheddar cheese
1 fresh lime

Heat the oil in a large cooking pot. Add the tortilla strips in batches, turning once, frying until crispy - about 2 minutes per batch. Repeat with rest of the strips, draining all and keeping warm.

Reduce heat, add onion and garlic.
While the onions are simmering, heat a small dry skillet (don't add oil) to hot and add the cumin and coriander, stirring, until they release their fragrance - about 1 to 2 minutes. Add paprika and cayenne and remove skillet from heat. Immediately scrape the spices into the onions and garlic and stir.

Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves and salt to the cooking pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of the cooked tortilla strips. Cook, uncovered for 30 minutes.
Remove bay leaves and let soup cool for about 10 minutes until you can safely blend in a blender.

In small batches, pour the soup mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree back to the soup pot and bring to a slow simmer.
Add the diced chicken breasts and the 1/4 cup fresh cilantro.
Add an 11 ounce can of drained and rinsed black beans and one 11 ounce can of drained golden hominy.
Squeeze juice of 1/2 fresh lime. Let the soup return to a simmer and it’s ready to serve.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with grated cheddar, chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado and tortilla strips. Serve with a slice of lime on the side.