Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Our menu this month features dishes inspired by our favorite TV shows and movies! We’ve got a great mix from appetizers to desserts! Hosting this month is Coleen of The Redhead Baker. This was such a fun idea that I’m tempted to throw a party with this same theme. How fun would that be!
Just like most of my food-loving friends, I go crazy for movies that revolve around cooking. “Tortilla Soup” is a favorite of mine and is a tale of a family that shares stories and discussions around the dinner table and in the kitchen, just like my family did when I was growing up.
The movie “Tortilla Soup” inspired today’s Mexican Chicken Chile Soup. The chefs behind the scenes, doing all the cooking and creating masterful film moments were Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, the talented pair behind “Border Grill” and other restaurants in the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas. They did such as great job that I left the theater seriously drooling.
Of all the chicken soups in the world, tortilla is my favorite. I love the addition of the tomatoes and chiles plus the crunch from the tortilla strips. It is like chicken soup on steroids, full of the flavors of Latin cuisines – chiles, cumin, oregano, corn and fresh lime juice. There are many variations and you can add whatever you like, but start with a really well made stock and the rest will be the proverbial icing on the cake.
I love using dried chiles. They impart tremendous flavor and depending on the type, spicy heat. For this soup I chose a combination of fairly mild Guajillo (wah-hee-yo) chiles and Chipotle peppers, smoked jalapenos. The Guajillo chiles give the soup its deep flavor and the chipotle lends a nice fiery smokiness. I prefer the clean, pure flavors of the dried chiles to chipotles en adobo.
Softening dried chiles in boiling water makes them pliable and easy to work with. From there you can puree them into sauces and soups like this recipe. If you can’t find these specific chiles, you can use any variety available in your grocery store or dried ground chile powders as an alternative. The dried chiles, when combined with the tomatoes, give this soup its deep red color.
I have never had much luck frying my tortilla strips – they usually wind up burning. I decided to bake them in a moderate oven instead and though they took longer, they were nice and crispy without being greasy. The Artist told me that any time I wanted to make them again, he wouldn’t mind. 😉 They make a great snack in addition to adding crunch to the soup.
The ingredient list is long but many of the items you probably already have in your pantry. With just a few steps and about 45 minutes you will have a healthy, hearty, and delicious meal on the table that is very healthy and affordable.
The garnishes are fun, add a lot of flavor and texture and pops of bright colors. I love the look of the yellow-orange cheese against the deep red soup with the splash of white from the sour cream, the creamy yellow-green of the avocado, and the burst of green of the chopped cilantro. This is a visually stunning soup that will have everyone sitting up with anticipation as you deliver the beautiful bowls to the table.
Take a few extra minutes to garnish the bowls before serving and then you can pass bowls of the garnishes at the table for people to add more of their favorites. Enjoy this Mexican Chicken Chile soup all fall and winter long!
Be sure to check out everyone’s recipes inspired by the movies and I bet you will be inspired to not only watch the films again but also to head to the kitchen and make these beautiful dishes!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
To get the most juice from citrus fruits, microwave them for about 10 seconds and then roll them under your palm on the counter. This will break down the cell walls and release the most juice. A hand-held wooden reamer is the best tool for getting every drop. Limes do not have seeds the way lemons do, so there is no need for a strainer.
Most tortillas, even corn, are made with some wheat to make them more pliable. Look for GF on the label to be sure. Homemade stock not only tastes better, but you can control the ingredients and guarantee that it is safe for your family.
This recipe is part of our monthly progressive dinner party, Progressive Eats. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
Dishes Inspired by Movies or TV
- Masala Omelette from “The Hundred Foot Journey” from Spice Roots
- Mexican Chicken Chile Soup (Gluten-Free) from “Tortilla Soup” from The Heritage Cook
- Double Polar Burgers with Everything from “Grease” from Pastry Chef Online
- Mrs. Patmore’s Calvados-Glazed Chicken from The Redhead Baker
- Retro Waldorf Salad for Mad Men Fans from “Mad Men” from Mother Would Know
- Chocolate Frangelico Truffles from Chocolat from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Minny’s Chocolate Chess Pie from “The Help” from Creative Culinary
- Tortilla Strips
- Corn tortillas (gluten-free if needed)
- Organic olive oil
- Kosher salt and ancho chile powder
- Chile Puree
- 1 to 2 dried guajillo, New Mexican, or other mild red chiles
- 1 dried chipotle chile
- Boiling water
- 2 cups (16 oz) crushed or strained tomatoes (I like Pomi brand)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, bitter core discarded, thinly sliced
- Chicken Chile Soup
- 2 tbsp organic olive oil, divided
- 4 to 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (gluten-free if needed)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 boneless chicken breast halves, cut into small cubes or thin strips
- 4 small carrots, trimmed and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
- 1 tbsp masa harina or corn flour (gluten-free if needed)
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- Juice of 1 freshly squeezed lime
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Sour cream, optional
- Avocado cubes, optional
- Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish (or use parsley)
- Fresh lime wedges, for garnish
- Make the Tortilla Strips: Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tortillas on both sides with the oil and cut into thin strips. Spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and chile powder, and bake until lightly golden brown and slightly crispy, tossing occasionally, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Prepare the Chile Puree: While the tortilla strips are baking, place the dried chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chiles to a cutting board (discard water), cut out the stem end and scrape out the seeds. Cut the chiles into small pieces.
- Place the chile pieces, tomatoes, onions and garlic in a blender and puree until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides if needed with a spatula. If you use a food processor, strain out any remaining solids (a blender is much better at fully pureeing mixtures).
- Make the Soup: In a 4-quart saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium heat. Pour the pureed tomato mixture into the pan and whisk in half the chicken stock, the cumin, and oregano. (Use less chicken stock for a spicier soup; more stock for a milder version.) Reduce the heat to medium-low and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Cook, stirring often, until reduced to the consistency of tomato paste and the flavors are blended, about 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk in the remaining stock. Dissolve the masa in 1/3-cup warm water, whisking until completely smooth. Pour the masa into the tomato/stock mixture and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Add the frozen corn and bring to a boil; cook at a low boil for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- In a 10-inch skillet, heat remaining 1 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté until cooked through and golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the cubes or strips. When done, use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving as much of the oil as possible in the pan.
- In the same skillet, sauté the carrots and celery until softened, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Add the sauteed vegetables to the tomato/stock mixture, stirring to combine. Add the cooked chicken and warm through. Add lime juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- To Serve: Place a few tortilla strips in the bottom of each serving bowl. Ladle in some of the soup, sprinkle with shredded cheese and drop a dollop of sour cream in the center. Top with some more of the tortilla strips, the avocado if using, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro if desired. Serve hot with additional lime wedges on the side.
- Yield: about 4 servings
With Progressive Eats, a new theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. We have a full menu including appetizers, sides, entrees, and desserts. Make sure you check out the links above!
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