Tortilla Soup for FF* – R. Jehn

Richard’s Rich Tortilla Soup (2 January 2001)

This soup was not what I expected – I have had many versions of tortilla soup, but this one takes the prize! I believe the squash is the secret.

I have a funny story to go with this recipe. A long-time Texan friend (known him for more than 35 years), who contributed several things to this book and whose Mom of Mexican background did all the childhood cooking, asked me for a recipe for tortilla soup.

I had already come up with this one, so I sent it to him. He lives in Austin now, so easily would have found all the chiles and other ingredients. The night he was making the soup, he phoned in a bit of a panic. He asked me why his soup was “glow-in-the-dark” green.

To make a long story short, he had used fresh green poblano chiles instead of the correct dried New Mexico and dried ancho chiles. He’s made me give thought to how I write recipes, but so many other people have praised the effort and the dishes they have prepared using the first book that I think I should not be too concerned.

Sorry for emphasizing the dried thing below. Vic tells me, “You must write with clarity.” This recipe completely takes away Vic’s breath. By the way, anchos and pullas do not exist other than dried. It’s kinda like the matter of Inuit words for snow, all 40-something of them. Whatever ….

The recipe also appears in KCTS Cooks Favorite Recipes.

3 or 4 dried ancho (or NM) chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 dried pulla chile, stem and seeds removed

Bring about a cup of water to almost boiling, then pour it over the chiles that have been placed into a small bowl. Soak the chiles until the squash is baked.

1 small yellow-meated, Winter squash, halved, cleaned of seeds and strings, and lightly coated with olive oil (butternut, acorn or delicata squash are all great)

Bake the squash at 350° F. for about 45 or 50 minutes, until tender. Scrape the meat from the squash into a food processor or blender. Also add the chiles and about 1/2 cup of the chile soaking liquid. Process until a smooth liquid.

2 small Spanish onions, diced
3 Italian garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
8 Roma tomatoes, chopped (or a 14-ounce can diced tomato)
1 tablespoon epazote (optional, but important)
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups low-fat chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

In a 4-quart pot, heat the oil, then add the onions and garlic. When transparent, add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Also add the squash and chile purée. Simmer slowly until the tomatoes are broken down, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

I also sautéed some button mushrooms, as follows:

12 large button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a little frying pan, then add the mushrooms and salt and pepper. Don’t touch the mushrooms, until they are a bit dry and caramelizing. Add them to the soup about 10 or 15 minutes before you expect to eat, stirring them into the broth.

In the meanwhile, prepare the following condiments:

6 yellow corn tortillas, sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
Salt to taste

Heat the oil to almost smoking in a large frying pan. Fry the tortilla strips in batches until crispy, turning as required. Drain on paper towels, salting to taste.

1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 avocado, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 lime, sliced into 8 wedges

You can grate the cheese a little time ahead of when your soup is done, but wait until the last minute for the avocado and lime.

In two large bowls, place a few tortilla strips, then ladle hot soup over them. Garnish with cheese and avocado and serve a lime wedge or two on the side.

The soup freezes very well, but prepare the condiments (i.e., avocado, cheese, lime, and tortilla strips) fresh each time.

* FF = Foodie Friday

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