Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese Recipe

This soup is fantastic; it's Rick Bayless again. I love using the chicken meat from the stock in a similarly flavored dish, like chilaquiles, or the chicken enchiladas I made this week. It is less expensive to use the whole chicken, makes good use of it, and the soup tastes phenomenally better with homemade stock. This dish works well for the whole week because the components can be stored separately in the refrigerator until you want to assemble them. The broth is delicately flavored and provides a nice vehicle for the bold chipotle and goat cheese richness. Comforting and delicious, this soup has become one of my favorites.

Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese
from Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time

Serves 6 as a first course, 4 as a casual main dish

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rich-tasting pork lard, plus a little oil to spray or brush on the tortillas
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 small white onion, sliced
One 15 ounce good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained OR 12 ounces (2 medium small round or 4 to 6 plum) ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
6 cups good chicken broth, store-bought or homemade (I used homemade, see below)
8 ounces full-flavored mushrooms (I love shiitakes here), stemmed (discard the woody stems or finely chop them) and sliced 1/4 inch thick (you'll have a generous 2 cups slices) OR 1 1/2 ounces dried shiitake, chanterelle or porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then drained and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 corn tortillas
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, removed from the canning sauce
4 ounces goat cheese, cut or broken apart into roughly 1/2 inch cubes
1 large ripe avocade, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large bunch watercress, leaves only

1. The Soup. In a medium-large (4 quart)saucepan, heat the oil or lard over medium. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the garlic and onion, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible transfer to a food processor or blender; set the pan aside. Add the tomatoes to the garlic and onion and process to a smooth puree.

Set the saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly until it has thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and sliced mushrooms and bring to a boil, then partially cover and gently simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Tast and season with salt, usually 1/2 teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of your broth.

2. Toasting the Tortillas. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the tortillas in half, then cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips. Spread out the tortilla strips in a single layer on a baking sheet and spray or lightly brush with oil and toss to coat evenly. Set in the oven and bake, stirring around every couple of minutes or so, until lightly browned and crispy, about 8 minutes.

3. Serving the Soup. Cut open the chipotle chiles and scrape out their seeds. Cut the chiles into thin strips. In each soup bowl, place a portion of the cheese and cubed avocade, a generous sprinking of the watercress leaves and a few strips of chipotle. Ladle the broth into the bowls, top each with a little handful of crispy tortilla strips and you're ready to eat.

Working Ahead: Step 1 can be done several days in advance -- in fact, the soup gets better with a day or two for the flavors to mingle. Store made-ahead soup in the refrigerator, covered. Complete Steps 2 to 3 shortly before serving.

Caldo de Pollo Basico
From Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time

1 medium 3 1/2 pound chicken, preferably a good-tasting free-range one, cut into pieces (that's what I used) OR 3 pounds chicken wings or bones (such as necks or carcasses)
I medium white onion, sliced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 to 4 bay leaves (use the skinny Mexican bay laurel leaves for authentic flavor)
2 to 3 sprigs EACH fresh marjoram and thyme OR a generous 1/2 teaspoon EACH dried marjoram and thyme.

In a medium (6 quart) soup pot, combine the chicken, onion, garlic, bay, marjoram and thyme. Add 4 quarts of water, set over medium-high heat and let come to a simmer. Skim off the grayish foam that rises during the first few minutes of simmering, then partially cover and reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a very gentle simmer. If using a cut-up whole chicken, cook for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces, let cool until handleable and pull the meat from the bone (reserve it for enchiladas or the like); return the bones to the simmering broth for another hour. If using chicken wings or bones, let simmer for 2 hours.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Let the broth rest long enough for the fat to rise to the top, then spoon it off. Covered and refrigerated, the broth will keep for several days in the refrigerator. It freezes beautifully.