Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ancho Chicken Tortilla Soup ...for Food 'n Flix & the Tortilla Soup Quest!

It probably won't surprise any of you who know me even a little bitty bit that the movie I chose for Food 'n Flix this month was Tortilla Soup{warning: there's a few spoilers in my summary} Tortilla Soup weaves the tale of a Mexican American family...Martín, a widower of 15 years and his daughters Leticia, Carmen, and Maribel.  Martín is a chef who has lost his sense of taste and smell, but still cooks lavish family dinners for his family on a regular basis.  It begins with a food scene so intense that it never fails to make my mouth watering and my stomach rumble.  Fresh chiles, tomatoes, nopales and avocados are plucked from the garden and chopped, sliced, stirred, mashed, cooked and loved into an amazing meal along with beautiful fresh fish all wrapped in green banana leaves and piled high on gorgeous, earthenware platters in the kitchen of my dreams.  This is a story of love and relationships between father and daughters, between sisters, between men and women, between family and food.  From Carmen, the business woman who would rather follow her passion and her father's legacy in the kitchen to Leticia the school marm who surprises everybody by eloping to the youngest, Maribel who is just trying to find herself and be heard.  Love can blossom in the most unexpected places and as long as you have your loved ones around you and begin to accept change...then the flavors and smells of life will come bursting through!

While there is an amazing variety of Mexican and Nuevo Latino food to choose from and drool over, I was ready to try a new version of Tortilla Soup and what better time than immediately after watching Tortilla Soup. Again.  Seriously, I never tire of this film.  The version I made is based on a recipe by Rachael Ray.  Strange, right...I mean, I don't automatically connect her with Mexican food.  But I did change things up quite a bit, but her recipe made a fantastic base.  I do love the enticing, deep  red broth chock full of so many goodies...although in the end, I do prefer a "plain" soup base (as opposed to chunky...really, who needs all those extras in the soup base itself).  Sure, it still needs to back some killer flavor into that base, but really Tortilla Soup is all about the toppings.

One of my favorite parts of this movie is a dinner scene when the family sits down to a steaming pot of Tortilla Soup and Leticia introduces her new husband, Orlando (which the family is meeting for the first time).  Leticia dishes him up a bowl of Martín's Tortilla Soup, and she holds up the toppings in a questioning way and he stammers back nervously... "I love toppings.  I've always liked toppings.  Sometimes I go to restaurants and I just ask for toppings.  You know, I say, the more toppings the merrier.  That's what I say."  Ha ha ha ha ha.  But that's so true.  A tortilla soup is only as good as its toppings.
Ancho Chicken Tortilla Soup
inspired and adapted liberally from Rachael Ray via Food Network
serves: 6-8

soup:
2 large ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
2 qt. chicken stock
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 c. corn (from ~4 ears or use frozen, defrosted)
1 large red onion, chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 Tbs. honey
~3 c. chicken, cooked & shredded
salt, to taste

toppings:
Corn Tortillas, snipped & fried or baked (or break up store-bought tortilla chips or even hard taco shells)
avocado, diced
cilantro
crema (Mexican table cream)
queso fresco, cubed or crumbled
lime wedges
Combine anchos and chicken stock in a 3 qt. (or thereabouts) pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chiles are tender, ~5 minutes. Turn off heat. Let cool a bit, then transfer chiles to the jar of a blender. Add enough of the broth so that they blend smoothly (~2 c.) and blend until smooth. Set a wire strainer over the pot, then pour back into the pot (trapping the skins in the strainer...discard them). Put about a half a cup of water into the blender jar and swirl it around to get all of the purée that is left on the inside...out. Pour that through the strainer back into the pot, as well and set aside.

Place oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and heat on high. Add the corn and sauté until charred at the edges, ~3 minutes. Reduce the heat a little, add the onions, jalapeños, and garlic. Season with cumin, smoked paprika and cinnamon. Sauté for ~4-5 minutes, stirring and moving everything around constantly. The spices will begin to stick to the pan, but as long as you keep stirring, they should not burn. Tip in the tomatoes and their juices, and gently release that beautiful fond from the bottom of the pan.
Add honey, then stir in the the puréed ancho broth and shredded chicken. Let soup bubble, slowly and gently for ~10 minutes to let the flavors come together. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary (this will depend on if you used salted stock or broth...so taste it first!).

Pile each bowl high with the toppings (crispy tortillas, avocado, cilantro, sour cream, queso fresco) and ladle the soup over everything. Pass lime wedges for people to squeeze over their servings, as they like.

my thoughts: The flavor of this particular Tortilla soup was sweet, smoky, deep and pretty amazing.  And actually, it was a bit sweet from the corn and the honey and the tomatoes...with that hint of cinnamon that lies beneath.  But the sweetness wasn't an unpleasant sweetness.  It was tempered nicely with that nice smoky heat of the paprika and anchos...and for those of us who wanted to spice it up, we added a few hits of Chipotle Hot Sauce (either Cholula or Tabasco). But, as usual, it was all about the toppings...the cubes of queso fresco add a chewy saltiness...the avocado and crema add cool, creamy spots...the tortillas and chicken add an earthy toothsomeness...and a finishing hit of tangy lime rounds the whole thing out.
So, aside from this being my Food 'n Flix: Tortilla Soup entry, it also allows me to tuck another Tortilla Soup under my belt for my own personal Tortilla Soup Challenge/Quest.

A couple of quick notes: 1) Food 'n Flix goes on the road next month!  That's right, it's going to be a traveling event.  You will still find all the information you need about upcoming flix and hosts (with their flix pix) and previously viewed flix right at the site...it will be "the studio".  You can see the list of future host sites and which movies to rent/buy/borrow/prepare for by looking here2) There is just over one month left of my year-long quest to try (with your help) as many different versions of Tortilla Soup as we possibly can.  If you haven't yet added a soup to the quest, you can still do so any time until the last day of May.  It can be newly posted or previously posted.  I'm not picky.  I just love me some Tortilla Soup.
TortillaSoupChallenge FoodnFlix

I am also sharing this post with:
*Saturdays with Rachael Ray at Taste and Tell
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