It’s chile pepper season here in Colorado and neighboring New Mexico. There are places you can drive by and catch a whiff of Big Jim or Hatch chiles roasting in big 55 gallon drums over hot coals. It smells like heaven and it usually inspires me to break outside of my comfort zone and cook with other varieties of chiles. Sometimes that means visiting a specialty market but it’s fun to try new flavors.
This soup uses dried cascabel and pasilla chiles. They are readily available where I live but you may need to hunt a bit to find them in your area. Once you start buying cascabels, you will become hooked. They are a fun shape… round and when shaken their seeds make a rattle like a fun musical toy. the flavor is rich and smoky and has medium heat. Pasilla is a dried chilaca chile from Mexico. At least they should be a chilaca. It’s common to find dried ancho chiles mistakenly referred to as pasilla. The pasilla has more of a fruity flavor and is one of the primary treasured chiles often used in a traditional mole sauce.
Chicken Chile Tortilla Soup – The Recipe
- 3 large ripe tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken broth (homemade or Organic boxed – not low sodium)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 cascabel chiles, wiped then stemmed & seeded – toasted
- 2 large pasilla chiles, wiped then stemmed & seeded – toasted
- 1 chipotle chile w/ TBSP adobe sauce
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 6 6 inch fresh corn tortillas (preferably homemade or fresh locally made store-bought)
- 2-3 TBSP vegetable oil
- 1 medium Haas avocado, ripe but still firm
- 1 cup queso fresco, shredded or cut into small cubes
- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken ( or organic deli chicken)
- roasted corn – removed from the cob (optional – I do this on the grill)
- 4 jalapenos, roasted and sliced. (optional)
- 1 lime, sliced into wedges for garnish
- cilantro leaves, for garnish
- 1 ripe tomato, chopped for garnish
- sea salt
Preheat oven to broil.
Remove cores from the tomatoes and lightly score the skin. Place on broil pan and broil (rotating often) until the tomatoes are nicely roasted – as evidenced by blackened skins (approximately 15-20 minutes) Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Turn oven temperature down to 350.
Heat the chicken broth in a medium sauce pan to a simmer. In a separate bowl, add all dried chiles and pour some of the heated chicken broth over the chiles to allow them to reconstitute… cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit approximately 15-20 minutes until they are soft.
Once tomatoes have cooled, cut them into quarters. Place them along with the chiles, cumin seeds, chipotle and the broth used for soaking and the garlic in a blender and pulse on low until just chopped. Then add a little more broth and blend on medium until smooth.
Using a strainer, strain tomato mixture into the sauce pan or pot containing the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer (never boil) for about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and heat.
Make tortilla strips. Place tortillas in a stack and slice into 4 triangles.. then cut each remaining stack of triangles into 1/4 inch strips. Place all strips in a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with vegetable oil and dust with sea salt. Gently toss strips until they are covered lightly with oil. Spread the strips on the baking sheet so they are not over lapping and bake until crispy and golden – about 10-15 minutes. Stir lightly during baking to ensure even baking on all strips.
Slice avocados into equal slices. Place 2-3 slices in the bottom of a soup bowl. Place equal parts chicken, queso fresco, corn and tomato (optional) and tortilla chips in the bowl then gently ladle the broth into the bowls and serve. Optional: roast jalapenos until soft and skin is slightly blackened.. slice and serve a few slices into each bowl. Garnish with fresh cilantro.