Let’s talk about Tex-Mex, shall we? The term was coined in 1875 and initially referred to the Texas and Mexican Railroad. Some claim that the cradle of Tex-Mex food is San Antonio where Hispanic women, called “chili queens” began serving chili in the plazas in the 1880s. In
the 1930s, several restaurant chains started and popularized the idea of the combo plate with rice and beans. Then in the 1970s, cookbook author Diana Kennedy asserted that Mexican food made north of the border wasn’t truly Mexican food at all. Even though she offended Texans who liked their nachos, fajitas and cheese enchiladas, she probably cemented the idea of regional dishes with big southwest flavors that came to be known as Tex-Mex.
We’ve been making tortilla soup for years and could probably do it while half-asleep, it’s that easy. Our little trick is to pulverize some tortilla chips in the food processor and add these when the veggies are almost done. They add a bit of texture and thicken up the soup nicely.
The last several times we cooked this soup, we made our own chicken stock by simmering bone-in chicken thighs with veggies (a quartered onion, celery, and carrot) and seasoning (salt, peppercorns, bay leaf) for about 40 minutes. But you don’t have to do this. Leftover chicken (rotisserie chicken is particularly good) and canned stock works just as well.
This recipe is easily adaptable. You don’t like heat? Leave out the jalapeno. You don’t eat meat? Make it vegan by leaving out the chicken and subbing vegetable stock.
If you make your way to San Antonio, remember the Alamo (literally), site of the 1836 battle between Mexican troops under President General Santa Anna and Texian defenders. Visitors can take in the shrine, visit the museum and walk the gardens.
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium red pepper, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 jalapeno, deveined and deseeded, finely diced (optional)
- 1/2 cup corn tortilla chips, blitzed in food processor
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 15-oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 cup salsa
- 2 15-oz. cans of black beans, drained
- 3-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Hot sauce for garnish (optional)
- Chopped cilantro, chopped for garnish (optional)
- Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
- Tortilla strips for garnish (optional)
- Avocado or guacamole for garnish (optional)
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt for garnish (optional)
Heat olive oil in large stock pot. Add carrots and sauté, 3-4 minutes. Add celery, onion, red pepper, garlic and jalapeno if using. Sauté 3-4 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add tortilla chips, continue cooking until soft. Add stock, tomatoes, salsa and black beans. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low. Add chicken and season to taste with salt, pepper and cumin. Simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through. Enjoy with your favorite toppings.