The Soup Blog
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Los Feliz Navidad: Tortilla Soup

Ave Tortilla

We held our annual holiday party this week.  Although since we hadn’t hosted the party since ’07†, calling it annual is something of a stretch.

But enough dwelling on the past.  We’re back.

Actually, I’m not quite through dwelling in the past. Because the holidays (well, just Christmas, really) have a lot to do with the origins of this blog.

In San Francisco, when my wife and I were first courting (and the courtship continues), we began making little foodstuffs we would pass along to our friends and family for the holidays.  The first things we made were infused oils and whole grain mustards. Very potent.  Next we switched to salad dressings, but those didn’t keep very well. Finally, when we became engaged and moved to the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz, we hit upon the gift that kept on giving: Soup.

During that time, my work on the 1997 revision of The Joy of Cooking left me with a lot of experience canning jams, and jellies, and catsups, and compotes, and preserves.  Not to mention a closet full of mason jars filled with this stuff.

From there we were only a hop, skip and a pressure cooker away from jarring Christmas soups for all our loved ones.  Something we’ve done ever since.

I can’t remember what the first soups we made were.  But you can be sure that a majority of the soups I’ve created for this blog came from this young holiday tradition.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for the recipes.  Like a fool or a prima donna (take your pick) I never wrote anything down, which means that the soup blog is part re-run and part re-invention.

Lucky for you, that incarnation of the blog is drawing to a close.  And one of the few soups left in my repertoire that I haven’t written about yet is Tortilla soup.

This soup was the first one we packaged with its own bagful of garnish.  Very folksy.  The strange thing about tortilla soup is that it only becomes tortilla soup in the last few seconds before it’s served.  Until then it’s pepper, onion and cilantro soup.  That’s when the bagful of garnish (fried tortilla strips) comes into play.

The soup turned out very well this time (if you ignore the reactions of my two children).  That is to say my wife and I loved it.  The soup probably would have looked more “Christmassy” if I had used red and green bell peppers, but the yellow ones were on sale for $0.79/lb.  The lower price together with the fact that brightly colored peppers (i.e. not green) are a lot sweeter made it a win-win situation.

Now  I just have to get out the mason jars and the pressure cooker, whip up another three to five gallon batch of this stuff and I’m halfway home for the holidays.

Note:  This three year holiday party gap has nothing to do with the war on Christmas or any of the other nonsense conjured up by the good people of cable TV-land.

Tortilla Soup
(serves 6-8)
1 T canola oil
6 cups red or yellow bell pepper, diced
3 cups onions, diced1 large onion, chopped
6 cups stock
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 t ground coriander
salt & pepper to taste
1½ -2 cups canola oil
5 small corn tortillas, cut into thin 2-3 inch strips

  1. Heat the oil in a  medium (3 quart) soup pot and sauté the peppers and onions  until  tender (5-7 minutes).
  2. Add the stock, cilantro, coriander, seasonings and bring the soup to a boil before reducing to a simmer and for 20-30 minutes.
  3. While the soup is simmering, heat up the additional canola oil in a small pot and fry the tortilla strips in small batches until they just start to change color, then remove them from the oil and drain them on some paper towels. (Save to oil for your future frying needs).
  4. At service time, after you ladle the soup into the bowls, sprinkle a few of the fried tortilla strips over the top and let them sink into the broth.

Image Credit:  “A-maize-ing Grace” tortilla relief and photo by the author.

I hope you’re having a nice holiday season so far. (Yes, it’s begun already.)  Do you have any favorite soups for this season.  Let me know in a comment. I’ll be reading and responding.

5 Comments to “Los Feliz Navidad: Tortilla Soup”

  1. Jame says:

    Yum – Declan and I look forward to trying this one. We reverted back to some oldies – the Carrot and Fennel, for one, and I’m making the “good old” Beer, Brats and Cabbage again this morning. Still so many to go… Love, Jame

    • pcandres says:

      Hope you like it. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Amy Donfrio says:

    You are a fabulous writer AND a “souper” soup chef! Love to read and make the soups. A friend passes these blogs on to me.Merry Christmas to your family!

    • pcandres says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I am glad you like the blog and the recipes. Thanks to your friend to for spreading the word. Happy Holidays to you too.

  3. Amy Donfrio says:

    P.S. Loved the Ave Tortilla