From Bonnie Tawse
Serves 8 -12
[Ed: I don’t know if the surge of interest in Mexican cooking is thanks to Top Chef Masters or what, but tortilla soups are neck-and-neck with butternut squash in terms of Soup and Bread popularity this year. I believe this one, which Bonnie adapted from Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican, is our first vegetarian version. Says Bonnie: “I fell in love with ‘Sopa de Tortilla’ while living with my husband in Guanajuato, Mexico. There are many different versions, some have chicken, some omit the avocado. This one is pretty straightforward, but you must let the tortillas get stale before you fry them, otherwise they won’t be crispy and that’s such an important texture in this soup.”]
Ingredients4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or lard if you’re cool with that) 2 medium yellow onions, sliced 4 cloves of peeled garlic 1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained 3 quarts broth, either chicken or veggie 12 tortillas, lay them out on a sheet prior so go stale 2/3 cup vegetable oil 1 pound Oaxacan cheese cut into small cubes 2 large limes cut into wedges 3 avocados cut into cubes
In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and the garlic cloves and cook until both are a nutty brown, about 15 minutes. Scrape into a blender, add the tomatoes and blend until smooth.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same skillet over medium high. When hot, add the tomato mixture, and stir frequently until it thickens and is noticeably darker, approximately 5 minutes. Transfer to a large soup pot.
Stir the broth into the thickened tomato mixture, partially cover with a lid and let simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat. Taste and season with salt accordingly.
Meanwhile, slice the tortilla in half and then cut the halves into ¼ inch strips. Heat the 2/3 cup of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, When the oil is hot, and add the tortilla strips and fry, turning often until they crisp up. Quickly remove from oil and drain on paper towels or paper bags.
Divide the cubes of cheese amongst the bowls then top with the tortilla strips and avocado cubes. Ladle the hot soup over the garnishes and squeeze with a lime. Serve immediately, preferably with a cold beer.