What’s for dinner? Hearty tortilla soup heats up a cold night

Photo by Kathryn Jones

Photo by Kathryn Jones

By Kathryn Jones


Of all the wedding gifts my husband, Dan, and I received, the one that has served us well through three decades of married life is a cookbook called La Pinata. It’s full of┬árecipes tested by the Junior Service League of McAllen.

A friend of my mother’s gave us the book with the bright orange cover, which now looks worn at the edges from years of use. The pages are yellowed and splattered with reminders of past meals. Back then I sent Mom’s friend a “thank you” note, but I need to send her another one and tell her about all the favorite recipes we’ve discovered in those pages.

One is tortilla soup (page 295), which I’ve adapted over the years.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s not hard to make and is a one-dish meal. It just requires a little chopping and the ingredients are readily available at local supermarkets. I’ve never served it to anyone who didn’t love it and want the recipe. It’s an especially good dish this time of year when you crave something hot and a bit spicy to take the edge off the cold.

Added benefits: the soup tastes even better the next day, keeps well in the fridge and can be jazzed up with pasta such as penne or large macaroni as leftovers. You won’t want to waste any of the flavorful broth.

The original recipe didn’t call for adding black beans and corn, but we like to because it makes the soup heartier and adds more color and texture.

Note that it’s very important to top the soup with Monterrey Jack cheese (or a mixture of jack and cheddar if you prefer) and slices of avocado. The cheese melts into the soup and adds a bit of creaminess, and the avocado gets warm and soft and complements all the flavors. Some cooks might want to garnish with chopped cilantro for a bit more color.

You can use packaged corn tortilla chips, but frying strips of fresh corn tortillas isn’t that much trouble and gives the soup more flavor, more “bite” and less salt and fat.

This recipe also can be adapted for vegetarians (leave out the chicken and use vegetable broth) or those on a low-sodium diet (use low-sodium broth, rinse the canned vegetables and don’t add extra salt). I hope you and your family enjoy this soup as much as ours does. Please let me know!


Tortilla Soup

(makes 8-10 servings; nutritional information not available)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 Tbs. vegetable oil (I use olive oil)

2 cans beef broth

2 cans chicken broth

1 large tomato, chopped

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 jalapeno, chopped (if fresh; if using canned, chop several according to your taste)

3/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced

1 can corn (if desired)

1 can black beans, rinsed (if desired)

Tortilla strips, fried crisp

Avocado slices

Monterrey Jack cheese, grated

Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add the beef and chicken broths, cumin, chili powder, jalapeno and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add chicken, tomato and, if desired, corn and black beans. Cook 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Cut tortillas in narrow strips. Fry crisp. Place a few in the bottom of bowls. Fill with the hot soup. Garnish with more tortilla strips, cheese and avocado slices.




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