The past few weeks have seen a barrage of hacking, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing at home and everywhere else I’ve been. While there’s no cure for the common cold or flu, a steaming bowl of chicken soup is sure to make you feel better. The Southwest version substitutes corn tortilla strips for noodles (great if you’re avoiding gluten), and warms up your taste buds with a hint of green chile.
If you have more time on the weekend, roast a chicken for dinner on Saturday or Sunday and then use the leftovers to make soup during the middle of the week. You can also cook the beans in advance. But if you want to do it on the spur of the moment, you can take a couple of short cuts. Buy a roasted chicken from the deli and use the breast meat, saving the rest for snacks or chicken salad, and open up a can of beans from the pantry. You’ll have dinner on the table in no time at all.
You can cook this in the slow cooker if that fits your schedule, or you can do it on the stove in less than an hour. Either way, the smell wafting through the house is guaranteed to make everybody feel better. And the simple, delicious taste will chase those sniffles and winter-time blues away.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 cups frozen corn
2 cans Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
1 can black or pinto beans, whichever you prefer, drained and rinsed
1 can tomato paste
4 cups hot water
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
6 fresh corn tortillas
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 avocado, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
Pico de Gallo
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the yellow onion. Cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another two minutes, then add the red and green pepper. Saute for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add to a slow cooker.
Add the chicken, corn, tomatoes and chiles, and beans to the cooker. Add the tomato paste to the hot water and stir until dissolved. Add to the cooker. Stir in the cumin and add more water if necessary. Cover and turn heat to high. Allow to simmer for about 2 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper. Cover again and allow to cook for another hour. Turn the heat down, if necessary. The soup shouldn’t be boiling, but simmering.
During the last half hour of cooking, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the tortillas into thin strips and scatter in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about ten minutes until crispy, stirring often to keep from scorching. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
To serve, place a mound of tortilla strips in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the soup over. Place bowls of garnishes on the table so each person can choose their own.
Note: If you don’t want to use the slow cooker, saute the vegetables in a Dutch oven and then add the rest of the soup ingredients. Cook for about 30-45 minutes. Bake the tortillas strips and chop the garnishes while the soup is simmering. You should be able to have dinner on the table in about an hour.
Also, the amount of salt and pepper will depend on the seasoning on the chicken. Taste as you go and adjust accordingly.