Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

So this is the first post that truly tested the limits of the whole hatred-of-tomatoes theme. I love tortilla soup but I'm pretty picky about it. I'm not a fan of the very thin broth-y soups that taste very much like tomato soup with taco seasoning and some tortilla chips thrown on top for good measure. For me, those soups don't have any interest or character and taste way to much like raw tomatoes to be tasty. No, I prefer the creamier versions where you can tell the flour tortillas have lent their starchy goodness to the whole soup and it really tastes like a chicken taco on a flour tortilla with all the fixin's was just blended up and stuck in a bowl for you.

Since it has been unusually cool these last couple of weeks, I've been thinking a hot bowl of soup would hit the spot. I found this recipe on Cooking Light and decided to give it a go, but of course I tweaked it a bit. Since it was our main course I added some chicken to the soup. I also decreased the tomato sauce and added some skim milk to help add a creaminess. The end result: my official taste tester (Brad, the husband) approves. In fact, he loved it. I actually really liked it too but it bordered on almost too tomato-y for my taste. Next time I may add a little less tomato sauce and a little more milk. I like to play around with ratios until I get it just right, even still I really enjoyed it. But I couldn't eat the whole bowl. No worries, Brad finished off his and mine too. And he went back for seconds and thirds, that's right, he had it for dinner three nights in a row. He just couldn't stop talking about it! I always love having his seal of approval.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
(adapted from Cooking Light)

3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1 whole wheat flour tortilla diced into bite-size pieces
1/2 red onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 cups water
1/2 cup skim milk
1 14 oz can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup favorite bottled salsa
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fresh cilantro

Optional Toppings:
shredded sharp cheddar cheese, light sour cream, tortilla chips, etc

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and sear in a soup pot over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side. Remove from pot and slice into bite size pieces and set aside. In the same pot, add onion and saute over low heat until soft and almost translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Then add tomato sauce, water, milk, broth, salsa and spices. Be sure to stir well and scrap up all the browned chicken and onion bits from the bottom of the pan (read: flavor!) Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10-12 minutes.

This is where I did something I have a feeling most would find strange. I tend to like my soups either super thick or pretty creamy and not really anywhere in between. So I pulled out my handy-dandy new immersion blender and blended the soup while still in the pot on the stove to make the texture nice and smooth. Of course this step is optional.

Afterward, I added the diced chicken and tortilla pieces back into the soup and simmered on low for another 2-3 minutes just to combine the flavors. (Beware: only add the sliced tortillas to the soup if it's going to be eaten immediately. We learned the hard way that if they sit in the soup too long they got real soggy real quick and I wasn't a fan.) Serve with a dollop of light sour cream and a pinch of grated cheddar cheese. I also served this soup with a spinach salad and side of black beans.


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