It wasn't too long ago that I was growing really tire of Tampa's warm, humid air. I was anxiously awaiting some crisp dry weather so that I could pull on the winter boots, wrap a scarf around my neck, and throw a beanie on my little head. But the 80 degree days were relentless. I thought we'd never ever get a Winter; much less a Fall. But then, before I knew it, my wish had come true. It was cold...like really, really cold. Now, I sit here at the end of January and it's 50 degrees outside and pouring rain. I might as well live in Seattle (which wouldn't be such a bad thing).
This week was dreadfully bone chilling. And I do believe Chris got more cuddle time on the couch as a result. Grey skies and wet as can be, I was painfully taking coats out of my winter closet every single day. I've gotta say. I'm over it. This weather is nasty and I don't like it one bit. I need my warm days back...like, yesterday. Funny how the grass really is always greener for us ungrateful Floridians...
In addition to blaring the heat in my jeep and wearing slippers around my house, I've also had to warm up in other ways. I've turned to hot teas, chili, and lots...and lots of soup to warm my bones lately. You may remember a while back when I admitted that I'm not a huge soup connoisseur. Well, I'm not going back on that statement. But you may recall, that I also explained that there are only a few soups that strike my fancy.
While I'm not a soup aficionado, I am a Mexican cuisine freak. But you know this about me already..or you should. So when it comes to eating soup, one of my all time favorite combos is Chicken Tortilla Soup. Ahhh, it's spicy, full of texture, and always gets the job done. And I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say...I don't think anyone makes tortilla soup quite like me. I make the stuff for friends when they're sick and have also been known to serve it to company. It is always so well-received...like "this is the best tortilla soup I've ever had" well received." Okay, sorry for tooting my own horn.
My tortilla soup has always been pretty divine. I load it with roasted poblano peppers, cilantro, and spices...and the shredded chicken is always oh so tender. But this week, I decided to kick it up a few notches. So I made my own tortilla strips for a crunch component. I also used the authentic and sharp cotija cheese as well as chopped creamy avocado to spruce up the soup. And in addition to all of those treats, I grilled some corn on the cob and threw a little bit of that on top too. Not only pretty to the eye, this soup was packed with flavors and textures galore. Might be my best soup recipe yet...
Chicken and Poblano Tortilla Soup
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 red onion, chopped
2 medium to large poblano peppers
1 can rotel
1 32 ounce container chicken broth
1/2 can black beans (and some of the juices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons grape seed oil (or any oil with a high smoking point)
3 tablespoons chilli powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons your favorite Mexican/Tex-Mex hot sauce (I like Cholluah)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon white pepper
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
For the topping:
4 taco size soft corn tortilla shells, cut into 3 inch strips (or just use your favorite tortilla chips, broken into small pieces)
1 ripe avocado
3/4 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
2 ears yellow corn (organic if possible)
1) Pre-heat your oven to 430 degrees (or turn on the broiler if you have a watchful eye). When heated, place the poblano peppers in a pan and brush with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Put peppers in the oven, flipping them once. When peppers have gotten slightly charred, remove from the oven and set aside.
2) In a large saucepan, bring 2 tablespoons olive oil to medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
3) Cut off any excess fat from your chicken breasts and then chop into smaller pieces (I cut each breast in thirds). Add the chicken to the pan along with the minced garlic and all of the spices (chili pepper, cumin, white pepper, salt, black pepper). Stir, making sure that the chicken is completely coated in the spices. Brown chicken on all sides for 3-5 minutes, adding more olive oil if the pan gets dry.
4) Add just enough chicken broth to the pan to barely cover the chicken. Turn the heat to low so that the chicken is only slightly simmering. Leave it alone and get the rest of your ingredients ready. It should take about 25 minutes to cook until fork tender.
5) If you have a gas or charcoal grill, now is a good time to grill your corn. Otherwise, you can boil it or cook it on the stove. When it's slightly brown (that's how I like mine), remove from heat and set aside to cool.
6) In a small to medium fry pan, add 3 tablespoons grape seed oil over medium high heat. When sizzling (you can test it with one soft corn tortilla strip), place 1/2 of your tortilla strips in the oil, making sure to flip them (I use tongs or a large metal fry spoon for this). When crispy, place on a paper towel to dry and sprinkle with salt. ***If you don't feel like doing this step, your favorite tortilla chips will totally suffice.
7) Back to the chicken. Remove all of the chicken and place on a cutting board. Using the 2 fork shredding method (forks pulling at meat in the opposite direction), begin shredding your chicken. Add all of the chicken back into the saucepan. Also add the rest of the chicken broth, can of rotel, black beans, and hot sauce. Stir.
8) Remove the "skin" from the poblano peppers and discard. Roughly chop the poblanos. If you don't want the soup too spicy, push some (or all) of the seeds to the side. Add the chopped poblano peppers to the soup. At this time also add 1/3 of the tortilla strips. Stir and let simmer for 15-20 minutes,
9) Taste test your soup to make sure it doesn't need any more salt, hot sauce, cumin, etc. Also, stir in the chopped cilantro at this time.
10) Cut the corn off the cob and chop the avocado. Ladle soup into bowls. To the top of each bowl add corn, cotija cheese, chopped avocado, homemade tortilla strips, and another sprig of cilantro.
***Makes 4 dinner sized bowls