I was in Berkeley and stopped at a very famous restaurant for lunch. I ordered their version of this soup. I was so excited to try it and although it wasn’t awful it was certainly not excellent.
On a trip to Tahoe one winter I was stranded with my family by a pile up on the highway and we were forced to kill some time. We ended up in a Mexican restaurant outside of Sacramento. I ordered the usual enchilada combo platter, a margarita and the tortilla soup to start. The soup was amazing. It had large chunks of chicken, a flavorful broth and a crunchy topping. Because of these two experiences I was intimidated to make this for a long time thinking it would be really time intensive and still not have the wonderful flavor I remembered from that night.
This is my version of what I had remembered from that evening and what I was expecting in Berkeley. My children loved it. I served it with tortilla chips and topped it with Monterey Jack cheese so what’s not to love?
I start with an entire chicken and make a giant pot, but it can be made with chicken breasts and broth. However, not all broths are created equal. In this recipe especially, the quality of the soup will depend on the broth you use.
1 bunch cilantro
1 red pepper, diced small
1 zucchini, diced small
1/2 onion, diced small
2 cloves of fresh garlic finely chopped
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 container of fresh cut salsa, mild
1 cup frozen white corn
Fresh cilantro leaves
Monterrey Jack cheese
Wash chicken and remove chicken parts from the cavity. Place chicken in a stockpot and cover with water. Flavor can be added from the very beginning. Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into the water, then add entire lemon to the water. Wash the cilantro and add half of the bunch. Quarter the onion and add. Bring water to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for one hour or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Remove entire chicken from the pot to a colander in the sink and pull chicken meat off the bone and tear into small pieces. Strain the broth thorough a colander and return the broth to the original pot.
Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a small pan and sauté the red pepper, zucchini, onion and garlic. If you miss this step you will miss out on a layer of flavor that is necessary. I know, because I tried it and my daughter insisted the soup had no flavor. Add the sautéed vegetables to the pot with the remaining ingredients except the corn and bring back to a simmer.
Add the shredded chicken and yellow corn and simmer for another 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbling. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasonings. Serve with your favorite toppings.