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All I need to make tortilla soup (the Mexican equivalent of "Jewish penicillin") is homemade chicken stock, a few pieces of chicken, seasonal vegetables, diced avocado, a lime, some grated cheese, and tortillas. If you don't want to go through the hassle of frying tortillas, buy crispy tortilla chips. This soup is more like a stew and is a meal in itself. If you want to get fancy, make a batch of hot cornbread to serve alongside.
Wine Suggestion: Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil2 large yellow onions, quartered, and thinly sliced5 cloves garlic, minced1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds), cut into 6 pieces, skin removed8 cups water3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or substitute 14 oz. high quality canned tomatoes)3 teaspoons ground cumin2 teaspoons chili powder1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano2 bay leaves2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juiceSalt and freshly ground black pepperCorn oil for frying the tortillas5 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch strips2 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated1 large avocado, diced1/4 cup sour cream
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken, water, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender, about 1 hour. Discard the bay leaves. You should have approximately 6 to 7 cups broth remaining. Remove the chicken from the pan. Remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones. Dice and return the chicken to the pot. Season to taste with the lime juice, salt and pepper.
Heat 1/2 inch corn oil in a deep heavy pan to 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer. Add the tortilla strips and cook until crispy, 1 minute. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
To serve, heat the soup until hot. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and avocado. Top with a spoonful of sour cream and the tortillas strips.
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