They say that the best things in life are worth waiting for. I’m not sure how much I subscribe to that particular ideological tenet – I tend to be more of an “I want it now, so I’m going to do everything I can to get it now” kind of person. I’m a Millennial, guilty as charged. But in the kitchen, I’ve noticed that my personal mantra changes and I miraculously adopt a mild shade of patience.
I got to thinking about this dynamic yesterday afternoon as I prepared chicken stock for a chipotle chicken tortilla soup, carefully checking on my stock hour by hour to make sure it maintained the perfect low boil. What is it about the kitchen that changes me? That makes me more patient, more willing to wait even during the slowest of recipes?
I think what it boils down to (ha!) is the intersection of having fun in the process while simultaneously knowing that I’m creating the most flavorful dish possible. Slow cooking offers a certain kind of quietness to my mind. It also can enhance the flavor of a dish, especially something like a broth-based soup, when time is often all you need to achieve the best results.
I’ve written about this topic of finding joy in slow cooking before. It’s funny, though, because without this blog, I’m not sure I would have ever analyzed that theme to even know it exists within me, much less why. But being aware of it now, I can embrace it rather than shy away from it.
So embrace I did as I oh-so-slowly prepared this chipotle chicken tortilla soup. I simmered the stock for hours, creating a rich and tasty base. While the chicken carcass was simmering away, I sautéed the vegetables and spices together so that the flavors would meld. After all of the ingredients were chopped, simmered, sautéed, and puréed, I ladled the soup into bowls and topped each with an assortment of fresh ingredients. You can tell from the photos here…there is no shortage of toppings for this soup: creamy avocados, cool cilantro, sour limes, crispy fried tortilla strips, and rich cotija cheese. The result was outstanding – as in this is my new favorite meal and I could care less if hot soup is more apropos for winter. (Case in point: The only words my husband uttered while he inhaled his bowl of soup was, “Damn, babe. Just…damn.”)
Cheers to fun in the kitchen, slow cooked chicken, and lots of flavor in soup and in life!
PS: I wish I had cute Bourré kitchen photos to share, but, as you can see, he was too busy sleeping. He could barely hold his eyes open after a weekend full of partying with our friends. Rough life.
Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup
Ingredients for soup:
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 1 serrano pepper, diced (I leave seeds in for extra spice)
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 dried chipotle chiles, roughly chopped and seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste (I added about 1 teaspoon of each)
- 2 14-oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes w/ chiles
- 1 roasted chicken (like this one, but minus the truffled ingredients)
- 10 cups of water
Ingredients for topping (amounts can vary depending on your tastes):
- 2 avocados
- 4 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 limes, quartered
- fresh tortillas, cut into strips and fried (tortilla chips also work here)
- 1/3 lb of Cotija cheese, crumbled
Begin by roasting the chicken (see here for instructions and omit the truffled ingredients) and removing the meat from the chicken. I had about 4 pounds of meat, but anywhere between 3-5 would work here. Set meat aside and begin making the chicken stock. If you don’t have time to make your own chicken and stock, you can use store bought stock and a store bought roasted chicken for the meat. If this is your plan, skip ahead to the next step. If you’d like to make your own stock, continue reading. To make the stock, begin by removing all of the meat from the roasted chicken, setting all bones aside. Once the meat is removed, break apart the bones as best you can. You can use a knife in some places where the bones are thicker, but be careful not to hurt your knife (or yourself for that matter!) Place the bones of the chicken in a large stock pot with 10 cups of water and heat over high. Once the water begins to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid has reduced to roughly 7 cups, about 2 hours. Strain the bones and fats out of the stock, measure your remaining liquid and set aside. (Note: if you don’t have at least 7 cups of stock, you can add some water here.) Discard bones.
Now that you’ve got your chicken meat and stock ready, begin by making the base of the chipotle soup. Heat the olive oil over medium in a large stock pot and add the chopped onions, garlic, serrano, chipotle peppers, salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin. Sauté until onions have cooked down and are translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring the contents of soup to a boil. At this point, I add a handful of tortilla strips to the soup. They will get soggy, and they’ll later be pureed, but I find it deepens the almost-sweet flavor of corn in the soup. Once boiling, immediately reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes so that flavors meld together.
Using an immersion blender (or a food processor), purée the soup until smooth. Add the chicken and cook for 30 more minutes over low.
While chicken is simmering in the soup, heat about ½ inch of canola oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil turns glassy, add tortilla strips and fry for 20-30 seconds on each side before removing to a paper towel lined plate. If they appear to be burning in the oil, remove them from the oil immediately and turn the heat down.
Serve soup in bowls and as many topping as you want!
You can see in my ombré tortilla photo above that there are many “shades” of fried, depending on whether you leave them frying for 20, 25, or 30 seconds. If I were being super picky, I’d say that I preferred the 25 second ones (the middle batch) the best, but you honestly can’t go wrong with freshly fried tortillas.
The habaneros are for aesthetics…unless you’re just incredibly bold 😉