My dear friend Bonnie Cisneros is an amazing mother, author, scholar, teacher, community creator, fashionista, DJ, and history preserver. Her presence in my life has been profound, and most recently I have been participating in her Altar-ing community course, held by the Latino Collection and Resource Center of the San Antonio Public Library. Our local library system is amazing for many reasons (that's another blog post!), and I will be its biggest fan forever. The ability to attend this course is another reason why I stan. In our second gathering together we were told to examine family recipes and different smells that incite memories. I realized I didn't have a recipe that had been passed down for generations, maybe because I haven't asked. But this recipe was the first to come to my mind in embodying family, healing, love, and comfort. It is also something that is uniquely shared between my mom and me besides our eyes and silliness. So in the spirit of our Altar-ing course, and because so many of you wanted this recipe outside of Instagram stories, here it is with an annoying blogger story you can scroll past to get to the recipe y todo.
I caught a nasty sinus infection when I was 14. If you live in San Antonio it's kind of inevitable during cold allergy season. My mom suggested we go to Jim's for their chicken tortilla soup. I loved it so much I craved it nearly every day after, and especially when I wasn't feeling well. Crunchy chips, melted cheese, chicken, spice, SOUP! My mom and I found a recipe online and decided to try it with some tweaks. We've since edited this recipe to fit our preferences. We like it with more onion, garlic, and spice from the serrano peppers. We crisp the onions a little for more flavor. We never wrote down measurements, and I like to think my ancestors tell me when enough salt is enough: "Ya mija!"
I make this soup every time someone is sick. The serranos always clear out any congestion or nasty head fog. I make this soup to show people I care about them especially. Since meeting Anthony, and using his food products for nearly everything I cook, using Adelita's tortillas is the only way to make this soup now. The fresh ground corn flavor has elevated the body of taste that makes it somehow even more delicious, and the thicker fried tortilla strips don't get soggy sitting in the soup. If you don't like spice that much you can always use a jalapeño instead of a serrano, but please use one or the other for flavor. I have considered making a vegan version, and will post it if I get bored enough here in self-isolation to experiment.
This recipe is mine and my mama's, one I will pass down to my (hopeful) children and theirs. It is one of maybe 3 or 4 things I know how to make off the top of my head and from my heart. I hope it comforts you as much as my mama does me, especially during these confusing times. Much love and hugs to you all!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes total
Feeds 2 comfortably if we each get 2 bowls. 1 bowl usually fills me up!
*This soup also somehow gets better sitting in the fridge. Make double this recipe and save some to heat up quickly in a small pot the next day.
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 pack of Adelita's corn tortillas (10 count is fine for this recipe, but buy more for other meals!)
- cut tortillas into 1/2" strips
3/4 cup white onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic (the larger the better!), minced
2 serrano peppers, 1 diced, 1 sliced into rounds
- (or substitute 1 jalapeno, de-seeded if you don't like spice!)
1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes (HEB has my favorite one)
1 - 32oz box of chicken broth
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 - 7 to 8 piece pack of boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
In a soup or stock pot, bring vegetable oil to heat over medium high heat. Once heated, fry your corn tortilla strips until they are golden brown and crispy. Reserve them on a plate of paper towels to drain.
Season your chicken strips with salt and pepper. Put a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook your chicken for about 15 minutes or until MOSTLY cooked through. We will later add the chicken to simmer down with the soup and it will fully cook there.
Once all tortilla strips are fried and resting, fry the onions in the same pot. You can fry them until they're softened (about 2 minutes) or fry until they get crispy edges but not burned - this is how we like them! Toss in garlic and diced serranos, fry those with the onion. Once cooked down or a little crispy, add your can of fire roasted tomatoes and MOST of the 32 oz of chicken broth. (I say MOST because I don't have an exact measurement of how much chicken broth I use. I pour most of the box in but leave a little at the bottom so the soup isn't thinned out. Use your best judgment.) Add the sliced serranos if you like spice. Add about a tablespoon of salt. This is where my ancestors tell me, "Ya mija!"
At this point your chicken should be mostly cooked. Take it off the pan and shred with 2 forks. (I always save a strip or 2 for my dogs. Sosi likes catching the chicken if I drop it from up high.) Put all the chicken into the pot and bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes.
In the last 5 minutes of the simmering process, add your bunch of chopped cilantro and stir. Let it simmer for the remaining 5 minutes.
In bowls, put some cheese first, ladle soup in to your liking, and top with lime wedges, avocado slices, and your crispy Adelita tortilla strips. Enjoy!
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