Tortilla Soup is a household favorite, but I prefer to make a lighter style that sometimes leaves hungry folk wanting more. Last weekend my cousin came to visit for a doggy playdate in the snow, so I decided to make a twist on grilled cheese and tomato soup by pairing quesadillas with creamy chicken tortilla soup. The result totally hit the spot on a cold cloudy day.
Shake says: This is delicious with the Baja Bloom if you’re in a cocktail mood but personally I love to keep it simple and drink a Mexican beer. Our house favorites are Pacifico and Dos Equis Amber.
Special Equipment: Immersion blender or food processor-the soup is still great if it’s chunky, so if you don’t want to blend it don’t worry.
For the Soup:
64 oz. chicken broth
1 large can peeled tomatoes, seeds removed and juice reserved
1 onion, diced
1 tomatillo, diced
6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 leek, halved and sliced (white and light green part only)
3 tbsp. butter
2 oz. salt pork, cubed
1-2 guanjillo peppers
2-3 cups cooked seasoned rice Saucy Note: Sometimes I use packaged “Spanish Rice,” but it is also really easy to make delicious rice by boiling it in chicken broth instead of rice (follow the package directions for ratios) and adding some garlic powder, tomato paste, and salt.
10-16 oz. shredded chicken Saucy Note: I was short on time, so I bought a precooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. If you have the time, rub 2-3 chicken breasts with salt and oil and roast in a 350°F oven for 35-42 minutes while the soup simmers.
For the Quesadillas:
8 small tortillas Saucy Note: If you have a hungry crowd, everyone might want their own quesadilla, so it is worth it to have extra on hand. We split two small quesadillas between 4 people, but sometimes that is just not enough!
12 oz. shredded cheese Saucy Note: I used shredded bagged “Mexican” cheese, but things like queso fresco, manchego, and white cheddar make for great gourmet quesadillas.
1 lime, juiced
Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub chicken breasts with olive and a little salt, then roast for 35-42 minutes, until inside temp just reaches 160°. Don’t overcook the chicken, since the hot soup can add a little to the end result.
Start the rice. Boil one cup of rice in the recommended amount of liquid, switching chicken broth for water. Add 1 tbsp. tomato paste, a pinch of salt, and a couple shakes of garlic powder; bring to a boil, stir, and cover. Reduce heat to low and set timer for 25 minutes.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add salted pork. When the pork begins to render, add the butter and heat until foaming. When foaming subsides, add leeks, onion, and tomatillo, and cook until onions start to look translucent, 6-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add tomatoes, reserved juice, chicken broth, and whole peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for at least 20 minutes, or until rice and chicken is done.
When the soup is almost done (chicken and everything) prep the guacamole and quesadillas. Start with the guacamole. Cut open and pit the avocados, scooping out any gross brown spots (small brown spots are fine, but big dark ones taste funny). Season to taste with lime juice, salt, and hot sauce, in that order-I would be more specific, but good guacamole is all about being able to manipulate your avocados. Sometimes the quality isn’t great and they need a lot of seasoning, other times they hardly need to be removed from the skins. Practice and you’ll get the hang of it. Plain avocado slices are also great if you have really good avocados.
To make the quesadillas, smear one side of each tortilla with a small amount of sour cream-it acts like glue to keep the cheese and tortilla together, plus it is delicious. Sprinkle about ¼ of cheese in the middle of half the tortillas, then place another tortilla on top. Finish preparing the soup before grilling the quesadillas.
When rice is tender, add the rice to the soup. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and thick. Shred the chicken and add to the soup. Turn heat off.
Grill quesadillas and slice into triangles. Serve with lime, sour cream, cilantro, and extra cheese. I also like chopped jalapenos and hot sauce in mine!!