Annie’s No Regrets Tortilla Soup

This is my favorite fall and winter soup and if you can pull it off, you’ll impress your friends, parents, potluck, etc. Big batches of it will freeze well, and everyday the flavors get cozier. Usually there isn’t a need to freeze because it’s gone within a few days. It’s a process-based soup you can’t mess up, so it’s really fun to cook. I’ve been toying with this version for a few years and it’s never the same twice. I also like it because it requires you drink a beer while you cook.

What you need:

4-6 tomatoes on the vine, depending on size. The redder the better!

Coconut oil

Olive oil

1 poblano pepper

2 serrano peppers

Small can tomato paste

Medium sized can diced or stewed tomatoes, no added flavors

Vegetable or chicken stock—the cubed kind

One white onion

Bulb of garlic

Four limes—One for soup and the rest for topping

Topping bar: Cilantro, sour cream, tortillas and cheese.

(Optional chicken breast)

Salt and pepper

Cumin?

Nutmeg?

Honestly, I don’t even know what spices I use. Just pick out what smells good and play around.

But…this is important….Cinnamon sticks

Bay leaves

Dark chocolate

Dark beer. I’ve used oatmeal stouts, amber ales (Fat Tire works really well) and other malty, chocolatey beers.

Large bowl

Potato masher

Two pots on the stove top. I use a cast iron Dutch oven and a medium sized soup pot.

Oven with a broil option, or equivalent source of heat

Tortillas:

Chop a few tortillas and fry them in a shallow pool of canola oil. Sprinkle some salt on those healthy babies. Fry until crispy and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside for topping bar.

If you aren’t trying to please any vegetarians, you can use chicken stock and add shredded chicken to the soup itself, or use it in your topping bar.

Chicken:

Place 1-2 whole breasts in skillet on stove top and cook on medium-high heat until cooked through.

Move chicken to bowl. Use two forks to shred with the grain of the meat. Once shredded, add to soup a little at a time.

Soup:

Open a beer and start sippin’. You’re a real chef!

Fill your smaller soup pot with 3 or 4 cups of water. Boil and add a few cubes of your stock. You decide how strong you want that flavor, and you can add more later if desired.

Add the can of stewed or diced tomatoes. No need to drain.

Lower the heat and let it simmer.

Start your broiler and let it warm up.

Cut your vine tomatoes in half and remove the hard top where the stem was attached. Do this by cutting from the flat center at an angle, like a bevel. Your discards should only be pointy little pieces where the stem used to attach.

Once in halves, place tomatoes face down and rub skins with coconut oil. This is a high-heat oil and it will add to the flavor of the tomatoes. Still face down, place the tomatoes in the broiler and let broil until the skins start to blister. Check them around the 5 minute mark and then every 3 minutes after. The skin needs to be blistered and dark enough to easily remove, but not too burnt.

While this happens, half your serrano peppers and poblano pepper. De-vein and de-seed. Rub with coconut oil and broil until blistered. Careful your peppers don’t burn.

Remove tomatoes and peppers from broiler when the skin is crisp and puckered. Begin the painstaking task of peeling as much skin off as you can. Use a fork and a butter knife if still hot. Set the tomato skins aside. Discard the pepper skins.

(Removing the skin does not exactly make the soup better, but you want tender peppers and not waxy/burnt skin in your soup. As long as you get most of the blisters off, it’s fine. It’s not an exact science)

Dump the naked tomato halves in a large clean bowl and use your masher to mash them. Add salt, pepper, and other powdered spices here. Just dump a ton of shit in there until it smells good.

Chop the peppers and add them to the tomato mush. Add bay leaves. Combine and set aside.

Chop the white onion. Cry for all the mistakes you’ve made in your life. Drink your beer.

Pull yourself together and in your larger pot, the one without the stock, turn on low heat and add olive oil. Add the white onion and stir with a wooden spoon until they are translucent and sweaty. Keep on very low heat.

Chop garlic. Peel and cut each clove in half. I like big ol’ pieces of garlic in mine so don’t chop too fine.

Add garlic to onions and continue to cook for another minute or so. Then dump in your tomato mush and follow by dumping in your stock pot. Look at how much soup you have! Drop in 2 cinnamon sticks and 3 lime segments.

Now that everything is in one large pot, you can start experimenting.

Thicken by adding some tomato paste. However much you want, but I rarely use the whole can.

Add chocolate!

Add beer!

Add more spices!

Add more chocolate and beer.

The tomato skins you set aside should be dipped lightly in salt and eaten by you as your scurvy friends look on with envy.

If you want thicker soup, parcel out a few ladles into a bowl and use a fork to whisk in small amounts of flour at a time. Repeat until the small amount of soup is thick, then dump it in the pot. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. Don’t go crazy here or you’ll end up with lumpy flour in your soup.

Ta da! Now you have a warm delicious soup to keep you snug in your cold, disgusting apartment. Add sour cream, shredded cheese, crispy fried tortilla, lime wedges, and cilantro from the topping bar for individual bowls. Your friends and parents are so proud and impressed with your cooking skills! What’s that I taste? A hint of chocolate? A whisper of cinnamon? Nobody knows. You’re a genius!

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