Friday, September 14, 2012

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

A half a roasted chicken leftover from the night before stared at me when I went looking for something to eat. I picked it clean of useable meat and put the bones and scraps into a medium pan with water for the stock. The chicken went into a large soup pot along with a couple scrapings of the bacon grease left from breakfast and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Also, the chopped remains of a few extra crispy bacon slices that hadn’t been eaten.

I fire-roasted a Serrano chili and an Anaheim pepper on the stove top (setting them directly into the flame on the burner)—gaining a nice burn on my wrist when the chili fell out of the tongs during a turning and landed on my arm. Note to self: next time something hot and oozing with spiciness falls on you, wash it immediately.

I diced a couple small shallots (I can’t eat onion but shallot suits me), a few cloves of garlic, a carrot, a couple ribs of celery, and several handfuls of grape tomatoes (which I like because there is a much higher flesh to juice ratio and they’re just cute). I also added a can of white hominy corn that I found in the pantry. The diced veg went into the soup pot; the scraps and peelings were added to the simmering stock. A generous grind or three of peppercorn and several grinds of pink salt (because that’s what we use, sea salt or kosher salt would also work) happened here.

While the stock simmered and the meat and veg sweated into a nice, soft, soupy slurry, I dug some ancient corn tortillas out of the back of the fridge and sliced a stack into tiny strips. Most of the tortilla went directly into the soup pot to absorb all those yummy juices from the chunky slurry goodness, but a couple handfuls got fried in oil later for garnish.

By now, the soup was ready for the addition of stock and the diced, fire-roasted peppers. And the stock was ready to be added. It was brown and rich from the skin and dissolved cartilage. With the stock, I put in some dried oregano, just a bit since it wasn't Mexican oregano, and a dash of cinnamon. Espazote would have been good if I’d had any.

Adding the stock sooner dilutes the overall flavor, and keeps the individual flavors from mingling as fully. Adding the peppers sooner overpowers the soup with its flavors. Of course, if you like a hotter soup, add the chilies earlier. Or if you really like a sweet pepper to dominate, add it with the rest of the veg. (Actually I only used about half or two-thirds of the stock I’d made, there is still a pint or so in the fridge awaiting another meal.)

While the stock and slurry came together, I chopped a handful of flat leaf parsley—because I didn’t have any cilantro—and fried the reserved tortilla strips, salting well with pink salt and a tiny pinch of sugar. A drizzle of lime juice would have been good too but I was out of limes. A few dots of sour cream would garnish the soup as well.   Then I had to find and wash my favorite wooden bowl. And clean up the mess I’d made out of the kitchen.

This adventure produced about three and a half liters/quarts of soup.