This simple, homey dish makes use of corn tortillas left over from an earlier meal. With its layers of flavors and textures, it’s the ultimate one-dish meal. The earthy tomato-chile broth thickened with a corn tortilla is a hearty, satisfying base for a variety of toppings, such as cheese, avocado and toasted chile. Epazote, an herb commonly used in Mexican cooking, has a pungent flavor that is slightly reminiscent of mint, oregano and pine. It is available at most Latin American markets, but you can omit it and the soup will still be delicious.
- 6 thin corn tortillas
- 4 dried ancho chiles, seeded
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) safflower or canola oil, or as needed
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
- 1 ripe tomato, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
- 1 can (8 oz./250 g) diced tomatoes, drained
- 6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) chicken stock
- 4 to 5 fresh epazote leaves (optional)
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- Fine sea salt
- 1/2 lb. (250 g) queso fresco or Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
- 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cubed
1. Set one tortilla aside. Cut the other tortillas in half and then cut crosswise into strips 1/2 inch (12 mm) wide. Set aside. In a bowl, soak 1 chile in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the other chiles lengthwise into narrow strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long.
2. In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 6 Tbs. (90 ml) of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tortilla strips and fry, tossing, until crisp and golden on both sides, just a few seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Fry the chile strips very quickly in the same oil—again for just seconds—then remove and drain on paper towels.
3. Discard all but 1 Tbs. of the oil in the pan. Heat over medium-low heat, add the onion and garlic, and sauté until a rich golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Drain the soaking chile, discarding the liquid. Tear up the chile and the remaining tortilla and add to the blender or food processor with the tomato. Puree until smooth, adding up to 1/4 cup (60 ml) water if needed to achieve a smooth consistency.
4. In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the oil. Add the puree and fry, stirring continuously, until the sauce has deepened in color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and the epazote and simmer to blend the flavors, about 15 minutes. Stir in the oregano and season with salt.
5. To serve, divide half of the tortilla strips among warmed bowls, then ladle the hot soup into the bowls. Top with the remaining tortilla strips, the cheese, the chile strips and the avocado. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Bring a true taste of Mexico to your table with our mouthwatering collection of down-home dishes in Rustic Mexican, by Deborah Schneider.