All the Way Mexican in May: Chicken Tortilla Soup

I might have been Mexican in a previous life…Frida Kahlo maybe? Ooh the suffering…never mind. I do love her work though and that of her husband, Diego Rivera, so much so that I named my long hair Chihuahua after him. I’ve always been drawn to Mexico’s rich culture, textiles, the beautiful, bright colors and the food, can’t forget the food. I always enjoyed Mexican food but it wasn’t until I first visited Cancun about 20 years ago that I got to experience real Mexican food. Yes, Cancun, the tourist and spring break hot spot…don’t laugh!

Cancun isn’t exactly a foodie destination but I’ve always been one of those to go off the beaten path and wander to where the locals would hang out. I avoided Senor Frogs the like plague (sorry senor) and any other similar establishment that lined the main roads in search of local eateries. What I loved about the food was the simplicity, the spicy heat and the use of fresh ingredients. Everything tasted homemade, like someone’s Grandma was in the kitchen. Today when I go out for Mexican food, I want that same type of experience, homemade, fresh and authentic…and strong margaritas of course!!

For the month of May I’m going to do a Mexico series and post pictures of my inspirations, my trips to Mexico and as many recipes as I can. It’ll be my tribute to one of my favorite places.

So without further ado, here’s a classic that’s so easy and quick to make. It only looks complicated but it takes about an hour to pull this together. Just prep your ingredients and follow easy instructions below. The flavors are bold and fresh and so rewarding! It’s a healthy bowl of soup too!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2-3 chicken breasts, seasoned cooked and shredded
4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 chipotles in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 qt of water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped & extra for topping
3 corn tortillas
sea salt to taste
1 haas avocado, cubed
handful of tortilla chips or fry up 3 corn tortillas strips
shredded white or yellow cheddar
handful of radishes, sliced

1. Add tomatoes, onion, garlic and chipotle to a blender and puree.

2. In large pot, heat up oil on medium heat, then add tomato mixture and let cook.

3. Add chicken bouillon and water and turn up heat to high. Add the cooked chicken and salt to taste. The chicken bouillon already has salt so you want to make sure you just added enough salt to your liking. Add the cilantro and let soup cook for 10 minutes until the flavors are well blended.

4. Take the corn tortillas, tear it to pieces and just drop it in the soup. This will help thicken the soup. Lower heat and let soup simmer for another 10 minutes.

5. Ladle soup into bowl and top with a bit of avocado, shredded cheese, radishes, fresh cilantro and crumbled pieces of tortilla chips, this last ingredient will give it a nice crunch.

Taqueria Downtown: Spicy Food to Warm the Soul

It’s been a little damp here the past couple of days and unseasonably warm for December. Just really odd weather, cold and chilly one night and then it shoots up 20 degrees the next day. Now the weather folks are saying snow tomorrow! Huh?! Is this a sign of a frigid winter to come?

Well, if that’s the case, I’m ready. Gloves? Check. Shovel? Check. Dog friendly ice melter? Check. Easy access to one of the best Mexican food spots in the area in case I don’t feel like cooking? Check! Now I love to cook and will share many of my recipes but sometimes I just want to go somewhere and enjoy amazing food. So on chilly, cold, or wet day like today, I love to go to one of my favorite places for authentic Mexican food,  Taqueria Downtown in Jersey City, NJ

This place is no-nonsense though. You order at the counter, you grab a seat, the food is brought to you, eat and split. That’s it, nothing fancy, awesome food and it’s BYOB. Oh and they have their public list of 10 rules or commandments about not serving up “guacamole side shows” or fajitas, and foregoing the bright Mexican decorations which many have come to expect at Mexican establishments but not here which is fine by me. All I want is great food and pleasant service. Let’s start with the soup. The Pozole is a must and one of my favorites but unfortunately it’s only offered on weekends.

The Pozole is a red broth soup made with pork, cabbage, hominy and served with sides of diced onions, cilantro and lime for extra toppings. This soup is spicy hot and will definitely get your sinuses cleared! It’s on my list of dishes I need to learn to make. The Tortilla Soup is pretty awesome too, it’s a little creamy which is different than what I’m use to making but the flavor is so good and comes topped with crema, avocados and smokey, roasted peppers. I can’t wait to go back for more.

I don’t think I’ve ever had anything there that wasn’t delicious. The tacos are so good and are made using basic ingredients…meat, onions, cilantro and a homemade spicy salsa. That’s it and that’s all you need.

Good food on a cold, chilly, snowy, rainy, sunny or any day? Check. OK, now I need to go get some!