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The Best Recipe: Soups & Stews, Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Serves  6 TO  8

There are many renditions of this famous Mexican soup in its homeland. One of the more significant variations pertains to the tortillas. Both flour and corn tortillas are used, but the way they are incorporated differs. Our recipe calls for placing thin strips of flour tortillas on the bottom of the bowls before adding the stock. The tortillas soften, and the soup becomes more of a comforting Mexican-style chicken noodle soup. The other option (outlined in the variation) is to garnish each bowl with fried corn tortillas. These give the soup a crunchy component, but they also require an extra cooking step. Since the chicken stock is so highly seasoned in this recipe, we feel that starting with canned broth sacrifices little overall flavor.

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 quarts homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lime juice, plus 1 lime cut into wedges
1 whole boneless and skinless chicken breast (12 ounces), cut in half
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
6 flour tortillas, cut in half and then crosswise into 1/8-inch-wide strips
2 medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups grated mild white cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 medium jalapeno chiles, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thin

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook until aromatic, about 15 seconds.

2. Add the chicken stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add 2 tablespoons lime juice and the chicken. Partially cover and gently simmer until the chicken is no longer pink, about 15 minutes.

3. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the stock; cool slightly. Add the tomatoes to the stock and cook over medium heat until stock is very hot, about 5 minutes. With your hands, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. (The stock and chicken can be refrigerated separately overnight.)

4. To serve, divide the shredded chicken, sliced tortillas, and diced avocado into the bottom of each bowl and ladle the hot stock on top. Top each bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cheese and a generous sprinkling of cilantro leaves. Place the chiles. remaining cheese, and lime wedges on the table for adding to individual bowls as desired.


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