Yesterday, the first official day of fall, certainly lived up to its name. The sky was blue, the shadows were beautiful, and the air was crisp and cool. It was such a gorgeous morning that we felt inspired to get out to our favorite river trail and go for a jog. It had been about six months since we’d last hit the trail, and after our run, we were both starving. In honor of the beautiful fall day, we decided to whip up one of our favorite hearty soups.
This recipe was something we stumbled upon years ago on a lazy weekend morning while we were flipping through our favorite cooking channels. It has tons of cilantro, which lends a delicious, bright flavor to the soup. We know that lots of people absolutely hate cilantro, so if you’re part of that club (as strange as you seem to us), we recommend skipping out on this dish. Although the title of this recipe has the word “spicy” in it, this dish is not what we would categorize as spicy. It has a little bit of a kick, but the level of spiciness is really dependent on what type of chile you buy, and how many of the chile seeds make their way into the soup. This soup is relatively light, as its mainly broth-based, but the addition of the cheese, and chicken if you want something more filling, creates a very hearty meal. You can also add some fried tortilla strips for extra crunch if you feel so inclined, but the soup is wonderful without it. Also, this recipe makes a huge amount of soup; it’s pretty easy to tell by the fact that you need 8 whole cups of chicken broth! If you’re making this for only 2 people, feel free to store half of the batch you make in Tupperware and freeze it. We’ve frozen this soup for months at a time and the flavor was just as delicious as the day we made it. To re-heat, allow frozen soup to thaw, then re-heat on the stove in a medium sauce pot until hot.
2 tablespoons olive oil [240 calories]
2 medium yellow onions (chopped)
5-6 garlic cloves (chopped)
2 ½ loosely-packed cups (1 ¼ oz.) fresh cilantro
1 can (14.5 oz.) of diced tomatoes [100 calories]
(We prefer the fire-roasted brand that you can find at any grocery store)
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon cumin
8 cups chicken stock [96 calories]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 dried ancho/guajillo chile
2 tablespoons olive oil [240 calories]
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts [400 calories]
Spicy/southwest poultry rub of choice
(We prefer a roasted garlic and herb store-bought concoction, but feel free to buy or make your own)
1 cup Monterey Jack shredded cheese [400 calories]
½ cup scallions (thinly sliced)
Calories per serving: 109 (soup only) or 370 (soup with chicken & cheese)
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in large sauté pan. Add roughly chopped onions, garlic, and cilantro, and cook until onions are translucent (3-5 minutes).
In a food processor, combine cooked vegetable mixture with the diced tomatoes (juice included). Feel free to purée to your desired level of smoothness. You can make this a very silky purée for a thin soup, or, like we prefer, you can leave the mixture pretty chunky so your soup will seem more hearty. It’s all a personal preference, so feel free to play around with this element of the recipe.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add pureed mixture back to the pan, then add the lime juice and cumin. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to thicken and turn dark (5-10 minutes).
Transfer mixture to a large stock pot, then add 8 cups of chicken stock and dried chile. Over medium heat, simmer the soup uncovered for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the soup when cooked, then adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Take out the chile and discard. We generally only add about 1 teaspoon of salt and a couple of cracks of fresh pepper to this soup once it’s finished cooking; this is very easy to over-salt quickly, so be careful. We also occasionally add more cumin and/or lime juice at this point, dependent on what type of chile we use. If you use a guajillo chile, the flavor imparted to the soup is very mild, so the extra cumin and lime juice kicks up the flavor a notch.If you plan on making the chicken version of this dish, while the soup is simmering, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Rinse chicken breasts under cold water, then pat dry. Liberally season breasts on both sides with your spicy/southwest poultry rub of choice. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then lie breasts on sheet side by side. Cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165 degrees F as measured in the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. Remove chicken from oven, and once it has cooled sufficiently, cut up into bite-size pieces.
Serve soup in large bowls with cheese and scallions (and chicken) as toppings.
This recipe was originally adapted from Mike Smith, where it first appeared on his show Cooking School Stories on The Food Network. The chicken is certainly optional, as are the home-made fried tortilla strips. If you follow the original recipe for the tortilla strips, you’ll be glad you did; they’re amazingly crisp and tasty. The recipe makes a ton of the tortilla strips, but they seem to store well for a few days in a Tupperware container, so you can keep using them as you work your way through the batch of soup. If you want to see the original recipe, you can find it here
Mike’s Spicy Southwest Chicken Soup.