I think every December plays out kind of like a broken record for us. We do the hard-press, energetic push to Christmas Day and then once the wrapping paper and the Christmas feast dishes are cleared away, we fall into a heap. A beaten, slothful, ridiculous puddle of nada. I’m not inclined to leave the house for at least three days after Christmas. The way I see it, there are two kinds of people: those who hit the mall the day after Christmas and those who hit the couch instead. I’m firmly on Team Couch. I know this about myself, so I usually stock up on groceries pre-holiday, because nothing makes me crankier than to have to shlep to the supermarket on December 26th. I don’t care if we have to live on leftover ham and slightly stale pie for several days–I’m NOT making a grocery run.
Then when January comes, I’m usually ready to get back in my kitchen. I’m also suddenly compelled to get rid of all the cookies, candy and junky snacks lingering in my refrigerator and pantry. There just comes a point where I can’t look at that stuff one. more. day. It’s time to clear the decks and push the re-set button.
I don’t go completely Draconian in January–we still have cheese and bread and slightly embarrassing cereal choices in the house–those things don’t change. What does change is that I suddenly truly crave simple, healthy, flavorful food. I want less cookie, more vegetable in my life. The starchy casseroles and gratins don’t sound so appetizing, because let’s face it, December was pretty excessive in that department. My snug jeans bear testament to that.
Problem is, January is also usually cold and
downright shitty miserable in these parts, so salad doesn’t really sound like a delicious menu item, either. Maybe some people come home on a dark, snowy evening and crave a nice big salad, but I’m not one of them. Bleak mid-winter weather screams for something warm, something to chase the chill from your bones. Salad doesn’t cut it.
This is why it’s often soup to the rescue at Chez T. during January and February. The first few months of the year, my trusty soup pot sees a lot of action. I make at least one batch of soup a week, if not more. You can fill a stockpot with lots of nutrient-dense, protein-rich, lip-smacking things. You’ll feel comforted and taken care of. You won’t spend hours in the kitchen and you’ll have leftovers to tote to lunch for a few days. That sounds like a pretty good deal, don’t you think?
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, I encourage you to try this recipe for Chicken Poblano Tortilla Soup. Tortilla soup is one of those dishes that just makes my tummy and my soul happy. It’s hearty enough to call a meal and is full of those familiar, zesty Southwestern spices. It’s got all sorts of yummy toppings that add texture and layers of flavor, so it’s anything but boring. Sure, things like avocado and cheese and crumbled tortilla chips aren’t diet food, but you’re garnishing your bowl with them, not mainlining them like a plate of nachos. And what’s in the bowl is healthy enough that you can afford to splurge on a few delicious extras.
I’ve made plenty of tortilla soups in my day, but this one’s got to be near the top of my favorite variations. When I first read the recipe in Cooking Light magazine, I wasn’t sure if this was going to have enough spice and punch for my tastebuds–it seemed so simple and straightforward. There wasn’t a call for 8 different spices or 4 kinds of chiles, and I’ve made recipes for tortilla soup that entailed exactly that. Nope. This recipe is easy enough for a weeknight but tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove all day.
I made a few minor tweaks to the recipe, like pureeing the soup before adding the chicken, because I like my tortilla soup on the smooth side. For me, the toppings add enough body and texture, but if you like your soup really chock-full of chunks of vegetables, leave that step out. I also didn’t think my poblano chile had enough oomph, so I added in some jalapeno. You can decide on whatever spice level you like. Heed the warning I give in the recipe regarding the poblano chile! Poblanos are fickle little bastards! Some are blow-your-socks-off hot and some barely even register on the richter scale.
If you really like leftovers, feel free to double the recipe. This soup is light but feels like you’re eating something naughty. I like that! So go ahead and set that re-set button. You won’t regret making this, I promise.
Happy 2017, Readers. I know so many of us have been eagerly anticipating a fresh start to the year. Let’s make this a year to gather our loved ones close, to appreciate the gifts we have, to fill our souls and our tummies with healthy and satisfying things.
Let’s do this.
Chicken Poblano Tortilla Soup
slightly adapted from Cooking Light
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped carrot
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced *optional, see note at bottom*
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted, undrained
4 ounces tortilla chips, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
12 oz. shredded rotisserie chicken
1 avocado, diced
crumbled queso fresco or Cotija cheese
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, garlic and poblano pepper. Saute 8 minutes. Add stock, salt, pepper, cumin and tomatoes; bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Finely crush half of tortilla chips and add them to pot. Cook, stirring, until chips begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Puree soup with an immersion blender or puree in a regular blender.
**taste for heat at this point! Poblano peppers can range in heat from mild to quite fiery–it’s a crapshoot. If you like the level of spice in your broth, proceed with recipe. If you want more heat, add jalapeno in two batches, purring and tasting for desired spice level both times. If, for some reason, you’ve gotten a really zippy Poblano and feel like your broth is too spicy, add more chicken broth in half cup increments and taste as you go.**
Put pot back on heat and bring to a bare simmer. Add chicken and cilantro.
Ladle soup into 6 bowls. Top with remaining tortilla chips and any garnishes you wish.