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The Ladybugs' Recipes

Sopa Azteca (aka Tortilla Soup)
From:  MaryMary
4 T
1 tsp
8 oz
1 lb
20 - 30
5 - 6
whole chickens, cut up
Caldo de Pollo (chicken bouillon) (rounded spoonful)
onion, sliced
shredded American cheese (Kraft Deluxe)
generous pinches of chopped epazota
guajillo chile peppers puree
Chihuahua cheese (may substitute Monterey Jack if you have to)
Tortilla strips (may substitute Tacos or Tostadas)
Avocados, sliced
Grated Cotija cheese
Lime wedges or lime juice

Mexican store Shopping list:

1 pkg. of dehydrated chile guajillo (wa-he-yo) peppers. (about to pound) Here they cost about $7:00 per pound but they go a long way.

1 pkg quesso cotija adelita (k-so co-tee-ya) This is a very finely grated dry cheese similar to parmesan but tastes more like dehydrated cottage cheese and is just used to garnish the soup at serving time. $6.50 per pound but you only use a small amount and it keeps well and can be used for other dishes like tacos and enchiladas.

About one pound of Chihauhau cheese $ 5.00 per pound. This cheese is similar to Monterey Jack cheese and in fact I have substituted Monterey Jack for it. But I do like the Mexican Chihuahua cheese better.

One jar of Knorr Caldo con Sabor De Pollo. This is a powdered form of chicken bullion that is less salty and more flavorful than regular bouillon cubes. It costs only about $1.29 for an 8 oz jar. And I was able to find it in our local store in the ethnic food section too.

Sprigs of an herb called epazote. (e-pa-so-tay). It is green, leafy and similar to cilantro but has a very distinct flavor and can be purchased and used dehydrated as well.

Things you will want to do the day before:

1.  Wash and clean chicken, place in large soup kettle water.
2.  Slice onion and place on top of chicken.
3.  Sprinkle Caldo de pollo and salt over top cover and boil for about 1 hour.
4.  Allow to cool so you can touch the meat. Remove all meat and onion from broth. I use a pasta cooker basket so I can just lift it out. You may want to strain it so you have a nice clear broth.
5.  When the meat is cool enough to handle remove the skin, bones and as much fat as you can from the chicken and discard along with cooked onion.
6.  Pull the chicken apart so that it is stringy rather than cut up into chunks. Place "pulled’ chicken back into broth and refrigerate overnight. (Fat will rise to the top and be solid enough to remove).
7.  Fry corn tortilla strips. (You are doing this the day before because it causes a greasy spoon odor in your house that you will not want if you are expecting company. Hint: I have also used Tostados or other tortilla chips instead and they are good with the soup. Cut the corn tortillas into strips about 1/4 inch wide with a very sharp knife. (Stack and cut all at once).
8.  Heat enough oil (maybe1/2 cup) to generously cover the bottom of a large frying pan on medium high/high (depending on your stove).
9.  Drop handfuls of tortillas a little at a time into very hot oil.
10  Stir and toss till lightly golden, remove quickly to drain on paper towels.
11.  Repeat until all tortilla strips are fried.
12.  Store in plastic bag with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Soup Day:

Approximately 2 or 3 hours before you intend to serve Sopa Azteca you will need to prepare the pepper puree. (Do not prepare too far ahead of time as these peppers tend to get hotter as they sit). You may wish to use rubber gloves if you are sensitive to hot peppers. (I am not)

1.  Remove stems and open peppers to remove seeds as much as possible.
2.  Wash the cleaned peppers thoroughly and place in pan with enough water to cover.
3.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let soak until cooled enough to handle.

While waiting for the peppers to cool:
4.  Remove chicken from refrigerator and carefully scoop off as much of the solidified fat that has risen to the top as you can.
5.  Heat on top of stove to boiling. At this time you may wish to add up to 4 more T of the Caldo de Pollo. Go by taste. It should be very 'chickeny' and be slightly salty. You may add some salt if you wish.
6.  Shred 8 oz of American cheese and add to broth.
7.  Add couple of generous pinches of chopped epazote Simmer on low heat, stir occasionally.

Now that the peppers are cool:
8.  Place peppers in blender along with water they soaked in and liquefy. I do small batches at a time and use just a small amount of water enough to make them blend evenly.
9.  After all peppers are blended, place one cupful at a time in wire sieve. Scrape with wooden spoon to force puree through sieve into soup.
10.  Stir to mix thoroughly and taste after each addition of puree.
11.  Use only as much chiles as you want to get the proper color, flavor and picosa (hot spicy) to your taste. Remember you will be adding other ingredients when served so it can be a bit hot with out hurting anything.
12.  Discard any left over chile puree.
13.  If you did not buy the Cotija cheese already shredded, now is a good time to shred it.
14.  Cut up the avocados and coat lightly with lime juice to keep them from browning.
15.  Heat oven to 200F. Turn oven off and place tortilla strips in basket or cookie sheet to 'crisp.'

To serve soup:

1.  Place about 2 T of shredded chihauhau cheese and small handful of tortilla chips in bowl (or serve chips on the side).
2.  Ladle in hot soup.
3.  Float an avocado slice.
4.  Sprinkle a spoonful of grated Cojita cheese over top.
5.  A dollop of sour cream swirled in is also good.
6.  Serve immediately with wedges of lime to squeeze in as desired. I often use lime juice instead, to taste. (I like a lot of lime juice in mine.) I have also put the juice right in the soup before I served it. But the real authentic way to serve it is of course with real lime wedges.

This soup is very good and is worth the time and fuss. It can be served as a compliment to any meal or as a meal itself.

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