I like Mexican and Tex-Mex just fine, but it’s not at the top of my list of all-time favorite cuisines. That said, I have a somewhat strange and very strong reaction whenever I happen to walk or drive past a Mexican restaurant — I immediately think, “look at those people in there, eating cheese and guacamole and drinking margaritas. They’re geniuses.” Seriously, can you even think of a better use of your time than sitting with friends, eating cheese and throwing back some margs? It’s a rhetorical question. You can’t.
For the three years I lived in Chicago, I lived in three different apartments (four technically, but work with me here), and all of them were within 2 blocks of one another. And by “within 2 blocks of one another,” I mean “within 2 blocks of my favorite Mexican restaurant.” Until this new job opportunity popped up in DC, leaving that Mexican place was a non-starter.
In fact, we went there so often that we had a whole strategy figured out [side note: please tell me other couples do this. I know we can’t be THAT big of freaks]. Although there were lots of delicious things on the menu, the two shining stars were the table-side guacamole and the house margaritas. So rather than load up on big heavy entrees (and you know how huge entrees at Mexican restaurants can be), we focused on the highlights: an order of guac, a pitcher of margs, and something else quite light. Sometimes we’d just split a single quesadilla, but more often than not, we’d get little cups of tortilla soup.
This tortilla soup is (I have to imagine) much healthier than our old standby, since there’s no cream, but it’s no less delicious. If you’re looking for something healthy, spicy, and hearty, I can’t think of anything better.
[Except margs. Margs are always a good idea.]
SHRIMP TORTILLA SOUP (recipe from Pink Parsley)
4-5 (6-inch) corn tortillas, halved and sliced into thin strips
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chile powder
2 tbsp minced canned chipotles in adobo sauce (can adjust quantity depending on how spicy you like it)
5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 (15-oz) can hominy, drained and rinsed (I subbed corn with no problems)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1. Heat oven to 425. Toss tortilla strips with 1 tbsp oil and salt. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet and cook until deep-golden brown and crispy, 10-12 minutes, tossing halfway through. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and transfer to paper towel-lined plate.
2. Meanwhile, heat remaining tbsp oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chile powder, and chipotle peppers. Stirring constantly, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, hominy/corn, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
3. Working in batches, puree soup in blender or food processor until smooth. Return soup to pot and bring to a simmer. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through and opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lime juice.
4. Ladle into bowls and top with tortilla strips. Serve with lime wedges.
I loved how spicy and hearty this was. I did not love how it exploded out of my lid-less blender all over my kitchen and my cream-colored shirt.
Can you buy blender lids on craigslist? Apparently my tightly-squeezing-a-plastic-plate-over-the-top technique ain’t cutting it anymore.