For those of you unfamiliar with Rick Bayless, he is a James Beard award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality as the winner of Top Chef Masters as well as the host of "Mexico - One Plate at a Time". His restaurants in Chicago are some of my favorites in the country. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo have been around since the 1980's and still have a line out the door every day of the week. His latest creation, XOCO, might be my favorite one yet.
But I digress, back to the Sopa Azteca....Here's the link to Rick Bayless's official Sopa Azteca recipe. I didn't follow it exactly so continue on to how I made the best tortilla soup I've ever tasted. It just happened to also be one of the easiest soups I've ever made.
My rendition of Rick Bayless's Sopa Azteca
Ingredients * means see cook's notes.at the end of the recipe
1 large dried New Mexico chile, stemmed and seeded *
1 dried chipotle chile, stemmed and seeded *
One 15-ounce can pureed tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
5 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
2 quarts smoked turkey stock, homemade
1 pound shredded turkey leftover from Thanksgiving *
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
Your cheese of choice, shredded (e.g. Mexican melting cheese like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero), to taste
Roughly broken tortilla chips, to taste
1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraîche for garnish (I skipped this)
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving (I skipped this but wish I would have tried it)
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic once the oil is hot and cook until caramelized, about 7 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, lightly toast the chilis over the flame of your gas stove or in a pan on your electric stove. Don't be afraid to get it in the flame, that charring adds good flavor depth to the soup. Once the chilis are toasted, break them into small pieces and put them in a blender along with the tomatoes. Once the onions and garlic have caramelized, add them to the blender and process until everything is completely smooth*.
Return this mixture to the pan over high heat and cook until it is the consistency of tomato paste. Add the turkey stock and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, garnish each bowl with tortilla chips, avocado, and cheese.
Just before serving, add the turkey meat to the soup, taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Fill each bowl with soup and serve with sour cream, lime, and additional tortilla chips on the side.
* See the comments in Rick's recipe if you don't have dried chilies - chili powder can be substituted - or better yet, head to your local spice vendor and pick up some fresh dried chili's. My favorite spice vendor in Cleveland is Spice Hound
* You can use chicken stock instead of turkey, but good quality stock is very important. Don't waste your time or money on the stuff they sell at the grocery store - use water instead if you don't have homemade stock
* Chicken or any other meat can be substituted for turkey
* To ensure an amazing, velvety texture, I highly recommend using a Vita Mix blender. Using a lessor blender, you are likely to leave some larger chunks of the chili pepper that are not appealing to eat.