Monday, June 6, 2011

Tortilla Soup and Mexican Brown Rice

I have always loved the tortilla soup at Superior Grill in my hometown of Baton Rouge. The broth is rich with chicken flavor and packed with guilt-reducing vegetables. Plus, you get to stir cheese and Mexican rice into it!

I discovered how to make tortilla soup by accident, just when I needed it the most. My husband and I were visiting Baton Rouge for the holidays and staying at my mom's. We had too many drinks at Slinky's on New Years Eve, and woke up with terrible hangovers on New Years Day. We rolled out of bed around noon, and smelled what we could have sworn was Superior Grill's Tortilla Soup. But why did my mom's house smell like it? Turns out she was braising chicken breasts in diced fire roasted tomatoes for lunch. As we soothed our unhappy stomachs with the nourishing broth from her lunch, I realized that this would be a viable base for a tortilla soup recipe rivaling Superior Grill's. A few days later, I worked out recipes for a healthy and flavorful tortilla soup and simple, flavorful Mexican brown rice.

I crave this in summer and winter alike. It is light and fresh enough for a summer soup, but it is hearty enough to warm you through the winter. I always try to have an emergency supply in the freezer in case someone wakes up with a hangover or a cold.

Tortilla Soup

1 t olive oil or some Pam spray
1 onion, diced
1 lb carrot, chopped into bite-sized pieces
6 ribs celery, chopped into bite-sized pieces

6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb bell peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 lb zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t Goya Adobo seasoning or salt to taste
black pepper to taste
2 cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 32 oz carton chicken broth plus 2 cups chicken broth or water
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (you can either chop them into bite-sized pieces and add them to the soup towards the end of cooking, OR leave them whole and poach them in the soup, remove them at the end and shred them with two forks, and return to pan. I personally prefer the texture of chopped rather than shredded chicken.)

Garnish (all are optional):
touch of lemon juice (it's a great flavor enhancer. I swear it makes the soup taste more "chickeny")
low fat cheddar or jack cheese, grated

tortilla chips (duh!)
Mexican brown rice (see recipe below)

In a stockpot, saute vegetables until softened. Add remaining ingredients. (If you decided to chop your chicken beforehand, wait until the rest of the ingredients come to a simmer before adding.) This prevents it from overcooking. Cover and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, until veggies have softened and chicken is cooked through. 

Mexican Brown Rice

4 cups water or chicken broth
2 T tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 T Goya Adobo seasoning (or 2 t salt)
1 t dried oregano
red pepper flakes to taste

black pepper to taste
2 cups brown rice

Bring all ingredients except rice to a simmer. Once simmering, stir in rice and cover. Cook on low heat for 45 minutes.

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