In the dim area below the stage, club staffers had set up a makeshift dining area and a long row of card tables with Crock-pots to keep the soups---more than half a dozen in all---warm during the three-hour service period. Besides my tortilla soup, they included: Kerri Harrop's chicken noodle soup; vegan lentil and carrot soup; "pizza soup" from Stranger contributor Derek Erdman (basically a thin marinara sauce served over bread and sprinkled with oregano and mozzarella cheese); a rich mushroom cream soup that was more cream than mushroom; and tom kha gai (Thai chicken and coconut milk soup).
All the soups (but especially the tom kha) were amazing, and the crowd (by Sunday-night standards, anyway) was tremendous (and super-friendly). Martha Bayne, you're my new hero:
Here's my recipe:
Chicken tortilla soup
Four boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or just remove the skin from regular chicken thighs)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt or garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced red or yellow onion
½ cup diced green bell pepper
¼ cup red bell pepper
3 large cloves garlic, Minced
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies (don't know what Rotel is? Now you do!)
32 ounces chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium organic)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups hot water (or four more cups chicken stock)
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
5 whole corn tortillas, cut into half-inch-wide strips
Cilantro, to taste
1-3 tablespoons lime juice, to taste
Garnishes: Sour cream, diced red onion, pico de gallo (good basic recipe here), cilantro, grated Jack cheese, and lime wedges.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Place chicken thighs on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on chicken thighs, then sprinkle about half of spice mix on both sides, setting the rest aside.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is done. Let chicken cool slightly, then shred with forks or fingers. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onions, red pepper, green pepper, and garlic. Stir and begin cooking, then add the rest of the spice mix. Stir to combine, then ad chicken and stir.
Pour in Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, and water or chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.
Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and spices. Add cilantro and lime juice to taste. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
While you're waiting, heat a quarter-cup of corn oil in a heavy cast-iron skillet. When the oil starts to shimmer, toss in half the tortilla strips. (Do this in batches if you can't cook all the strips in a single layer). Five minutes before serving, gently stir in the remaining tortilla strips.
Ladle into bowls, then top with sour cream, diced red onion, pico de gallo, fried tortilla strips, cilantro, lime wedges, and cheese.