From America's Test Kitchen Season 6: South-of-the-Border Soups
The classic method of making this flavorful Mexican soup is not only arduous, but it relies on a long list of ingredients, many of which are difficult, if not impossible, to find outside of specialty markets. We wanted to make an intensely and authentically flavored tortilla soup in less than one hour, using supermarket ingredients.
By breaking the soup down to its three classic components—the flavor base (tomatoes, garlic, onion, and chiles), the chicken stock, and the garnishes (including fried tortilla chips)—we found we could devise techniques and substitute ingredients that together make a compelling version of tortilla soup. We began achieving maximum flavor by composing a puree made from chipotle chiles, tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeños, and a cilantro/oregano substitute for the Mexican ingredient epazote, and then frying the puree in oil over high heat. We then added the puree to low-sodium canned chicken broth that we strained after poaching chicken in it and infusing it with onions, garlic, cilantro, and oregano. Addressing the garnish issue, we oven-toasted our lightly oiled tortilla strips instead of frying them and substituted sour cream and Monterey Jack cheese for the harder-to-find Mexican crema and cotija.
Makes about 9 cups, serving 6
Despite its somewhat lengthy ingredient list, this recipe is very easy to prepare. If you desire a soup with mild spiciness, trim the ribs and seeds from the jalapeño (or omit the jalapeño altogether) and use the minimum amount of chipotle in adobo sauce (1 teaspoon, pureed with the tomatoes in step 3). Our preferred brand of low-sodium chicken broth is Swanson's Natural Goodness. If advance preparation suits you, the soup can be completed short of adding the shredded chicken to the pot at the end of step 3. Return the soup to a simmer over medium-high heat before proceeding. The tortilla strips and the garnishes are best prepared the day of serving.