Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Rick Bayless Imitation--Tortilla soup

It's the nip in the air that propels me into the soup zone. A chilly night and a bowl of hot soup goes hand in glove in our house. And my unending supply of tomatoes need to put to use too! So into the blender go the tomatoes. And the rest is a mish mash of so many tortilla soup recipes I've tried over the years. 

I had the real thing in Chicago at Rick Bayless' Frontera Fresco one cool October afternoon a few years ago. The sun streamed brighly through the skylights on to the cavernous dining space. I sat in a pool of fall sunshine with a steaming bowl of deep chile-red soup in front of me. The white shirt I was wearing promptly developed a speckled front. But I did not care! This huge bowl of soupy goodness topped with a large heap of fried tortilla strips, was manna from heaven. And along with the soup I had a green chile and cheese tamale. Both dishes were enough for me to eat in silent reverence afforded to great food. For a little while the hubbub of the world disappeared. I remember making a phone call to Geets describing in rapturous delight what I had eaten and why she wasnt there to share it with me. ( We do this very often....wishing each other there to revel in the flavors! )  And then I went back the next day and partook all over again! Bayless does a mean soup but I am in a hurry so I do not follow his instructions implicitly. I go around, below and above and come out pleasantly surprised with the end result. 

Tortilla Soup
Serves 4

4 plum Tomatoes
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1 cup Chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons Ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano or regular Oregano
1 teaspoon Kosher salt 
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1 Flour or Corn Tortilla
1/2 cup Canola oil

Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Cilantro, cut fine
Avocado slices
Sour cream

Cut tomatoes into quarters.

Purée tomatoes in blender.

Peel and chop onion into small dice.

Do the same for the garlic.

Heat oil in a saucepan.

Add onion and garlic to hot oil and saute for 5 minutes till onion is translucent.

Pour puréed tomatoes into the saucepan.

Add in stock, ancho chile powder, cumin powder, chile powder, oregano and salt.

Let the soup come to boil, lower the flame and simmer for 15 minutes.

Cut tortilla into thin strips.

Heat oil in a wok or deep saucepan.

Fry in hot oil till brown and crisp. It should take a minute.

Drain on a paper towel and keep aside.

Add lime juice to soup and serve with all the garnishes.


A can of fire-roasted tomatoes make the best soup. An an easier and faster way too. A can of diced tomatoes would be an adequate substitute too.

I make Ancho chile powder by grinding the chiles in a coffee grinder. It keeps well for a month.

Regular chile powder could be used in place of Ancho chile powder.

Roasted or boiled chicken could be added.

My bowl is filled. Golden brown tortilla strips sit mile high and then gradually sink to the bottom, acquiring a chewy texture. Some grated cheese, sliced avocado, cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime finish the soup. Extra fried tortillas are quickly demolished.  No sour cream... That's for the slim folks at my table!