Creamy Tortilla Soup

In January 2017, I visited Chicago to celebrate the birth of my beautiful niece, Virginia Abbe Strange. I arrived at the airport to find the entire city hibernating against the cold (-20 with windchill!), and found myself determined to bring my SoCal sunshine to the Midwest.

The Smietana clan nominated me to bring a Sunday dinner party to my sister’s house while we passed Virginia around like the most treasured Christmas present. If I was going to bring a sunny disposition to this party, I had to back up my San Diego credibility with a Mexican fiesta!

On the menu that night was tortilla soup shooters, three types of street tacos, and an Aztec kale salad.

Disfrutamos hasta la noche, cuando despedimos a la pequeña principesa.




3 dried ancho (New Mexican) chile
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
9 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
3 15-oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid
4 quarts chicken broth
4 cups corn tortilla chips
2 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs Mexican oregano
2 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs chipotle pepper powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional toppings

Lime wedge
Chopped green onion
Sour cream
Tortilla chip strips
Radish, thinly julienned



Using tongs, hold ancho chiles over open flame until charred on all sides (approx. 30 seconds). You will hear the seeds shake inside the pepper, and see the skin char and slightly expand. Destem, seed, and coarsely chop.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and sauté until slightly browned (approx. 8 min). Place onion mixture in a blender, along with tomatoes, ancho chile, salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth. Return to pot and cook over medium-high heat until thick like tomato paste, stirring often. Stir in chicken broth, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and chipotle pepper. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 hours. 1 hour before serving, measure 4 cups of tortilla chips (whole). Add tortilla chips to pot and stir. Cook 30 minutes. Puree soup until smooth with an immersion blender, and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste.

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