Chicken Tortilla Soup (Inspired by Tommy Bahama’s)
Whenever we visit my parents in Longboat Key, we spend a lot of time hanging out at St. Armand’s Circle in nearby Lido. It’s the heart of the island…the kind of place where you stroll in and out of boutiques, people-watch at sidewalk cafés, walk around with drippy ice cream cones, and ask every stranger with a dog if your children can pet it. One of our favorite restaurants there is Tommy Bahama’s. The food’s always good and we love sitting at a big round table under gently spinning wicker fans, listening to a one-man band play endless Jimmy Buffet tunes.
We all have our favorite dishes at Tommy’s, but one thing everyone agrees upon is the chicken tortilla soup. It’s a silky purée of vegetables, corn tortillas, chicken broth and spices with tender chunks of grilled chicken and a nest of tortilla matchsticks heaped over top.
I found the recipe in the Tommy Bahama cookbook, Life is One Long Weekend, and while it was easy enough, it called for the equivalent of two sticks of butter. Yikes! No wonder we all love it. For this somewhat healthier version, I cut the fat in half and tweaked the recipe here and there to make it more home cook-friendly. It’s still delicious.
The whole thing comes together fairly quickly.
You start by cooking onions, garlic and green peppers in butter and olive oil until they’re soft and mellow.
Add chopped corn tortillas and spices, and cook a few minutes to bring out all the flavors…
Add the chicken broth and simmer for about 20 minutes…
Puree until smooth and creamy…
And garnish however you like.
At Tommy’s, they finish the soup with an artistic drizzle of lime-sour cream, which looks nice but isn’t really necessary. (I’m guessing most of us don’t keep squeeze bottles at home for this type of thing anyway.) Just keep it simple with chopped fresh cilantro and crushed tortilla chips. Or for a more substantial soup, add diced chicken and avocado. Enjoy!
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into quarters
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
- 6 small (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 quarts (8 cups) low sodium chicken (best quality such as Swanson)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Suggestions for Garnish
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Handful chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 cooked skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces (see note)
- 1-2 avocados, chopped
- Heat olive oil and butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and green pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and just starting to brown, about 15 minutes. (Turn heat to medium-low if mixture is browning too quickly.)
- Add cut corn tortillas, chili powder and cumin; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, a few minutes more. Add chicken stock, salt and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer with lid slightly ajar for about 20 minutes. Off heat, use hand-held blender to puree until completely smooth (you can also do this in a blender in batches; just be careful to open the steam hole and cover with kitchen towel to avoid splatters). Stir in chicken if using, then ladle soup into bowls and garnish as you like.
- Note: I usually use leftover or rotisserie chicken, but if you want to cook the chicken from scratch, buy two bone-in chicken breasts. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken breasts on foil-lined baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, then cook 35-40 minutes or until done. Let cool, then pull meat off the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Note: The leftover soup will thicken in the refrigerator; add a bit of water to thin it out if necessary.
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