What surprised me the most during my trip to Mexico? Soup.
In Oaxaca, soup was everywhere. For breakfast, there was a pre-Hispanic era squash and corn soup. For lunch, barbacoa carts offered a cup of the broth with the tacos. Dinner at the market was my choice between lamb tacos, goat tacos…and my favorite, a bowl of chile-laced goat consommé, served with a platter of thin sliced vegetables.
And, of course, there is the garlic soup we made at Seasons of My Heart cooking school, one of the best things I ate on the trip.
There is one Mexican soup that has broken through in America - tortilla soup. Why? My guess: it is essentially chicken noodle soup. Just substitute fried tortilla strips for the noodles, add the flavors of salsa (now America’s favorite national condiment), and you’re done.
The other reason? It is fantastic refrigerator Velcro. This recipe is the real deal version…but my other version is a weeknight “what can I do with this leftover chicken?” recipe.
No pressure cooker? No worries. See the notes section for stove top instructions.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Tortilla Soup (Sopa De Tortilla)
Adapted from: Susana Trilling, Country Style Tortilla Soup, Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey through Oaxaca, Mexico
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- 6 quart or larger pressure cooker (I used a 6 quart electric Instant Pot pressure cooker )
Mexican Chicken Stock
- 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 rib celery, cut into 2 inch chunks
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 (4 pound) chicken, cut into pieces (legs, wings, and breasts)
- OR 3 pounds of chicken legs, thighs, or drumsticks
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 whole dried chile de arbol - optional
- 1 sprig fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- 4 black peppercorns
- 1 whole allspice
- 8 cups water
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 6 tortillas, cut into ½ inch thick strips (or substitute crumbled tortilla chips)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (15 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, pureed (substitute crushed fire roasted tomatoes if you can find them, and don’t bother pureeing)
- 12 cups of chicken stock (from above recipe)
- salt to taste (I used 2 teaspoons of kosher salt)
- 2 cups shredded chicken (from above recipe)
- 4 ounces queso fresco (or farmers cheese), cut into ½ inch cubes
- Chipotle en Adobo Puree (about 1 teaspoon per bowl, optional)
- 2 avocados, cut into ½ inch cubes
- ½ cup minced fresh cilantro
- Limes, cut into wedges
1. Make the stock
Add the vegetables, chicken, and spices to the pressure cooker pot, then cover with 8 cups of water. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, bring it up to high pressure, then cook on high pressure for 20 minutes (24 minutes in an electric PC). Turn off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally, about 20 minutes. Unlock the lid and open it away from you - carefully, the steam is scalding. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set it aside to cool. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. This will yield about 10 cups of chicken stock; use all of it in the recipe. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones.
This step can be done a day or two ahead of time - store the stock and shredded chicken in the refrigerator. Or, months ahead of time, if you freeze the stock and shredded chicken. Thaw them out when you’re ready to make soup.
2. Fry the tortilla strips (optional - substitute tortilla chips)
Wipe out the pressure cooker pot, add the vegetable oil, and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tortilla strips in two batches and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes; use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
3. Saute the onions, cook down the tomatoes
Pour out all but two tablespoons of the vegetable oil from the pot, then put the pot back over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and saute until they start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, until you smell garlic. Add the pureed tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes thicken up - about 10 minutes.
4. Simmer the broth
Stir in the chicken stock and scrape the bottom carefully to make sure no tomatoes are sticking. Lock the lid, bring the pressure cooker to high pressure, and pressure cook for 5 minutes at high pressure (6 minutes electric PC). Quick release the pressure. Open the lid away from you - again, be careful, the steam is scalding. Salt the soup to taste.
It will need salt. There isn’t any in the recipe up to this point. Add salt until the soup tastes bright and sweet, and gains body - you should just start to feel the salt on the tip of your tongue. I added 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to get the flavor I wanted.
5. Build the soup bowls
In the bottom of each bowl, put some shredded chicken, a few cubes of cheese, a few cubes of avocado, and a teaspoon of chipotle puree. Ladle the broth into the bowl, sprinkle cilantro and fried tortilla strips on top, and serve, passing the lime wedges at the table.
- No pressure cooker? No worries: Cook everything in a large, heavy pot or dutch oven. In step 1, simmer everything on the stove for 1 hour (instead of under pressure for 20 minutes with a natural pressure release). In step 4, simmer the garlic and broth broth for 30 minutes (instead of under pressure for 5 minutes with a quick release).
- About the red electric pressure cooker you see above - it's an off brand model that has an 8 quart capacity. I love the capacity, but the nonstick lining is showing signs of wear after only a handful of uses, so I can't recommend it. I have a different, off-brand 8 quart electric PC with a stainless liner that I'm trying out now; if I like it, I'll let you know.
- Feeding picky kids? Make this a “build your own soup.” Put everything on the table and let them pick out what they want.
- In a hurry? I’ve got a few suggestions. Each one removes a little more flavor from the soup…but I know what it is like to be under the gun to get dinner on the table.
- In a hurry (1): First thing to skip - frying the tortilla strips. Use tortilla chips instead.
- In a hurry (2): Skip cooking down the tomatoes. Dump the tomato puree in the pot, scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up the onions and garlic, and immediately move on to adding the stock.
- In a hurry (3): Use pre-made stock and shredded leftover chicken. The broth can be made ahead and frozen - it doesn't have to be Mexican broth. And the shredded chicken can be leftovers from any meal.
- In a hurry(4): You can…I hate to say it…get away with store-bought broth and a store-bought rotisserie chicken. There’s enough else going on in this recipe. But if you own a pressure cooker, broth is so easy you really should make your own.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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