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Food Column ATK Tortilla Soup

A slow-cooker chicken tortilla soup 

This light yet deeply flavorful soup is a celebration of colors, tastes, and textures, overflowing with garnishes and tender shredded chicken. We wanted it to have authentic flavor with a streamlined method, and the slowcooker was the perfect ally.

To replicate the traditionally deep, roasty, smoky notes of the broth, typically achieved by charring the vegetables, we used the saute function to brown some of the vegetables and aromatics. Using chipotle chili in adobo sauce (which are dried, smoked jalapenos in a spicy chili sauce) also added some smokiness along with a spicy kick, and a bit of tomato paste gave the base deep, savory flavor.

Since the tortillas are an essential component of the soup, we decided to add some tortilla pieces right to the pot to give the soup better body; the tortillas softened during cooking, and a vigorous whisk at the end ensured the pieces broke down. Since the base already had so much flavor, we found that making our own broth wasn't necessary, so we used store-bought broth and quicker--cooking boneless chicken; tasters preferred thighs over breasts for their richer flavor.

Since the slowcooker gave the soup great long-cooked flavor, we amped up the freshness and spice by stirring in additional aromatics after cooking. The tortilla strips are best prepared the day of serving. Different brands of corn tortillas may vary in thickness; the cooking time for the tortilla strips may need to be adjusted based on how thick yours are. Don't skip the garnishes_they are an essential component of the dish. If you can't find Cotija cheese, substitute farmer's cheese or feta.


TORTILLA SOUP

Servings: 6-8

Pressure cook total time: 50 minutes

Slow cook total time: 3 hours 30 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tomatoes, cored and chopped

1 onion, chopped fine

2 jalapeno chilies, stemmed, seeded, and minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 cups chicken broth

10 (6 inch) corn tortillas (4 cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 6 halved and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips)

11/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

Salt and pepper

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8 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled (2 cups)

1 avocado, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

Lime wedges

Using highest saute or browning function, heat 1 tablespoon oil in multicooker until shimmering. Add tomatoes, onion, and half of jalapeños and cook until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, 2 teaspoons chipotle, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth and tortilla pieces, scraping up any browned bits. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slowcooker.

To slow cook: Lock lid in place and open pressure release valve. Select low slow cook function and cook until chicken is tender, 2 to 3 hours. (If using Instant Pot, select high slow cook function.) Turn off multicooker and carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 F. Toss tortilla strips with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and bake on rimmed baking sheet until crisp and deep golden, 8 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer strips to paper towel-lined plate and lightly season with salt to taste; set aside for serving.

Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces using 2 forks. Whisk soup vigorously for 30 seconds to break down tortilla pieces. Stir in chicken, remaining jalapenos, and remaining 1 teaspoon chipotle and let sit until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing toasted tortilla strips, Cotija, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, and lime wedges separately.

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