tortilla soup

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Sopa Verde con Tortilla

The deglaze.

At a recent meeting of the Estate, being summer, I hosted a Mexican night. One of the featured dishes was a soup that I came up with last year for a hotel I was working at. It came out great, and I wanted to try to re-create it for the team. The re-creation was just as good as the original. This is a dish that utilizes the garnish as an integral part of the composition. I recently read in the book "The Flavor Bible" (my review of another book by the same authors here) an interview with Chef Johnny Iuzzini of Jean George in New York that reflected my thoughts on garnishes perfectly. He said; "I was actually brought up in the school of thought that put a sprig of mint on every dessert. I am not that guy anymore. I have a saying - "NFG" - which stands for two things at once: "nonfunctional garnishes" are "no fucking good." If something doesn't make sense to the dish, it won't be there..."

The simmer.

This is a concept that I've been working with for years, so I remembered that quote well, partially because it validated the point I was already trying to make. Go shove your parsley twig randomly thrown on a fish plate unless there's actually parsley IN the dish. Garnishes need to tie in, they need to make sense, they should be used to add another dimension not just a splash of color, AND they should be meant to be eaten (who wants to chew on a plain chunk of parsley?). In this soup I use the garnish to add a brightness and spark to the dish, to bring it to life. If you need to add color, find an ingredient that has the color you're looking for that also makes sense in context. Do some research if you have to, no matter the dish there's bound to be a cultural or classically paired ingredient that will suit your needs. But.... I digress... So, without further bitching and moaning, here's my recipe for Green Tortilla Soup. For the broth: 1 large white onion, roughly chopped 4 Pablano Peppers, seeded and roughly chopped 3 pounds whole Tomatillos, roughly chopped 2 tablespoons crushed garlic 1 quart Chicken Stock 2 bottles of amber colored beer (Sam Adams is my favorite for this) Juice of 3 limes 1 tablespoon ground cumin (freshly ground seeds if possible) 1/4 cup light oil S&P to taste 3 large Grilled Chicken Breasts, 1/4 inch dice For the garnish: 1/2 pound of corn tortilla chips, lightly crushed (home made or store bought will work fine) 4 Plum or Roma Tomatoes, seeded and finely diced 1/4 cup White Onion, finely diced 2 Jalapeno Peppers, finely diced 2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro, some whole leaves reserved Juice of 1 lime S&P to taste The procedure:

The puree.

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the rough chopped White Onion and Pablano. Cook slowly until very soft, then add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant. Deglaze with the beer and reduce by at least half. Add the Chicken Stock and Tomatillos and simmer until the Tomatillos are soft. Using a blender or immersion blender (also known as a stick blender, or burr mixer) puree to a smooth consistency. Add the Lime juice and season with S&P.

The Pico de Gallo.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl combine all the garnish ingredients accept the corn chips and whole Cilantro leaves, effectively making a Pico de Gallo. To serve:

The presentation. Notice the kitchy paper bowl. Only the best for R.E.!

Place some crushed Tortilla chips and diced Chicken Breast in the bottom of the serving bowls, and pour the soup over them. Garnish with 1 tablespoon of the Pico on top of each bowl and sprinkle with some of the reserved Cilantro leaves. The beauty of this recipe lies in it's simplicity and the way the ingredients come together in the final dish. As with most Mexican dishes, the key is the freshest possible ingredients prepared simply so to not mask what it is that makes them so special. Yet another concept I harp on about... Perfect ingredients need little to no preparation! Live well and eat better! Jack