Tortilla Soup for A January Summer

by Matt on January 13, 2009

Tortilla-Soup-Mattbites

Let’s pretend for just a tiny moment that it has not been in the 80s here in Los Angeles over the past few days. We can also pretend that I did not lay outside in shorts and no t-shirt in the sun on a big madras print blanket with a book and three small dogs who insisted on standing on my back, butt and head. And let’s also pretend that yesterday I didn’t get home and fight the urge to run straight to the grill with a beer in my hand.

Let’s just pretend, shall we?

It’s during these chilly months that we turn to soup and all things comfort.  With the chillier

Ugh.

OH I JUST CAN’T! I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T!

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I really wanted to wrap myself in the briskness of a Southern California winter but damnit it’s just not going to happen! It’s hot here — as in yes, you will sweat if you stand outside – and it’s throwing my seasonal eating outta whack something terrible! How on earth can I crave comfort foods when it not only seems like summer but smells like it, too? It’s hot and all my plans of braising and roasting just really don’t make that much sense. And you know it’s bad when you stroll around the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market looking in earnest for summer vegetables when you know it’s smack dab in the middle of January.

It’s wrong wrong wrong.

So something funny happened as I began working on this post. I wanted something warm and homey but wouldn’t you know it the temps soared and I was distracted. And then I realized that tortilla soup actually worked for everyone: it’ll warm you up in the dead of winter and it’ll also warm you up (and cool you down provided you keep plenty of cold cerveza nearby) in the, um, JanuarySummer of Southern California.

Tortilla Soup

I grew up with Caldo De Res, Menudo and Albondigas soups and stews and didn’t discover the pleasures of Tortilla Soup until I was an adult. And even then it seems like a funny invention to me. Why not Enchilada Soup or Taco Soup? Luckily this recipe isn’t really about throwing something else in a bowl with liquid and giving it a new fast name as much as it’s a very simple soup with some crunchy bits on top. Because we all love crunchy bits, don’t we? And once again the cuisine of my peeps is so ever adaptable and can be made brighter and snappier (limes! lemons!) or mas caliente (salsa! peppers!) or ever thicker and cheesier (cheese! cheese! cheese!). I’ll go ahead and stop now with the snappy! remarks! because I’m sure I’m annoying you.

But seriously, this soup is really simple and delicious and hits the spot.

8 tomatoes
3 garlic cloves with skin on
1/2 yellow onion
8 cups chicken stock (you can easily use vegetable stock too!)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 anaheim chiles
1/2 cup water
8 corn tortillas (and of course you can fry more if you want, I certainly wouldn’t mind)
oil for frying
1 cup Oaxacan cheese
lime

Broil the tomatoes, onions, chiles and garlic in the oven til blackened. Make sure to flip over and broil them completely. Once done remove the skin from the tomatoes, garlic and chiles.

Place the tomatoes, onion, chiles and garlic in a blender with 1/2 cup of water and puree. Strain the mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium high heat and add the pureed mixture. Boil it until it thickens and turks a dark red, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and salt to taste and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Cut the tortillas into 1/2-inch strips and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Careful not to burn them! Dry them on paper towels to remove excess oil.

To serve the soup place the tortilla strips in the bowl and ladle the soup over them. Garnish with cheese and a wedge of lime and if you’re feeling colorful you can add chopped cilantro on top.