Serious Eats: Recipes

Eat for Eight Bucks: Tortilla Soup

I've made plenty of tortilla soups from cookbooks over the years, but none has pleased me as much as the simple one I improvised last week. Although my gut tells me that means it was the kind of success that comes only when the planets are aligned, I want to share the recipe because it's an ideal one for fridge-clearing. It's so flexible that it could be called tortilla soup with or without tortillas.

Since I had made tostadas with poached chicken the night before, I had everything on hand, including a pot of homemade broth. But there's so much going on in this soup that you can skip one or two ingredients if necessary. As long as most of the ingredients make their way into the pot, this is really a meal in a bowl. If you're really starving, you might want to add a black bean salad on the side: dress a drained and rinsed can of beans with olive oil, sherry vinegar, a smidge of the chopped onion, some cilantro, a quarter teaspoon ground cumin, and salt and pepper. Adding two chicken legs and a can of beans to this meal will take you only 15 cents over budget and will make for very hearty eating indeed.

Note: Tortilla strips can also be baked in oven. Cut tortillas into strips, brush with 2 tablespoons oil, and bake at 400 degrees until crisp, about 10 minutes, stirring once. For an easier variation, replace the tortilla strips with shredded romaine hearts. Bouillon and water can be used in place of broth. Leftover roast chicken works, or you can poach two legs, reserving the liquid for the soup. I use pepper jack, but any jack, queso fresco, or feta works.

Shopping list: tortillas (pro-rated), $0.50; 1 small onion, $0.25; 1 zucchini, $0.75; 1 tomato, $1.00; 1 ear corn, $0.33; cilantro, $1.00; 2 ounces pepper jack, $0.50. Optional: two chicken legs, or use leftover cooked chicken.
Pantry items: oil, salt, garlic, chili powder, broth or bouillon powder, pepper.
Total cost (to serve 2): $4.33

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