Cook ’em Horns Revisited: Tortilla Soup

When autumn cool fronts drift into the Hill Country, I crave chicken tortilla soup, a Southwestern dish that warms you to the bone. So when The Alcalde asked me to reinvent a recipe from the official Texas Exes cookbook, Cook ’em Horns, I was immediately drawn to a meager version of my favorite dish that was shared by “Bitsy” Graham Hill, BA ’44, Life Member. Her recipe has only six ingredients, and the light soup is assembled in an easy 20 minutes. I twisted the recipe to create a more complex interpretation that simmers on the stove for a couple of hours.  My version includes a variety of fresh peppers, chicken thighs, Mexican spices, and a plethora of  garnishes. The result is a hearty, spicy meal that’s perfect for a cozy Sunday afternoon.

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 small jalapenos, cut in half and thinly sliced (deseed 2 jalapenos, or all 4 if you want a milder taste)
2 gloves garlic, thinly chopped
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
6 cups chicken broth*
2 cups water
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
1 tsp. red pepper
2 tsp. dried cilantro
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lime
1 cup tortilla chips, plus more for garnish
avocado slices, for garnish
shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, for garnish
lime slices, for garnish

Sautee onion, jalapenos, and garlic over medium-high heat for five to seven minutes in a 5-quart pot. Remove the mixture and set aside.
Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add to the pot. Brown on both sides for three to five minutes per side.
Return the onion and jalapeno mixture to pot with the chicken thighs.
Add the chicken stock, water, red pepper, dried cilantro,paprika, and cumin to the pot. Stir well to combine and simmer the soup over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour until the chicken is cooked through and starting to pull apart.
Add the crushed and diced tomatoes, red and yellow bell pepper, the lime zest, and crushed tortilla chips to the soup. Continue to simmer for 30 more minutes.
Taste the soup, and season it with salt to your liking (a few pinches).
Serve and garnish with shredded cheese, sliced avocado, lime slices, and more tortilla chips.
*A prior version of this recipe omitted the chicken stock.

Erin Krenek, BA ’06, blogs at Wave My Wooden Spoon.


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