I'm somewhat amazed that this recipe hasn't made it to Dinner Tonight already, between Nick being an unabashed Rick Bayless devotee and me having cooked it at least five or six times, which happens to me with recipes only rarely (writing this column requires a restless approach to cooking). It's a recipe that takes ingredients quite ordinary and makes something truly impressive with them. It's a clean, simple soup, chickeny and firey, balanced between richness and acidity. Even better are the textures, from the tortilla chips—some soggy, some crisp—to tender chunks of chicken, melty creamy cheese, and cooling chunks of avocado.
Tortilla soup is a popular recipe with many iterations, and this recipe is definitely adaptable. While the original formula called for pasilla chiles, I opted for the smokier (and more fiery) chipotle chiles in adobo, adding tiny amounts of the adobo sauce to adjust the spiciness. I might have gone too far—tears were streaming down my cheeks—so be careful. The more ambitious would also fry corn tortilla strips freshly, which would prolong the amount of time before they go soggy, but to save time I opted for premade tortilla chips.
- 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, plus sauce to taste
- 1 can (15-ounce) tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 clove garlic, peeled
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 1 large epazote sprig (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Mexican such as Chihuahua, quesadilla, or asadero, or Monterey Jack)
- 6 ounces roughly broken tortilla chips
- 1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a blender along with the chipotles and tomatoes. Blend until smooth.
Return the mixture to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to the consistency of tomato paste. Stir often to avoid burning. Add the broth and epazote, if using, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes to combine the flavors, then taste for salt.
Add the chicken to the pot and simmer 3 to 5 minutes more or until just cooked through but still tender. In the meantime, divide the avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips to soup bowls. Ladle the soup in, and serve with a squeeze of lime.