A spicy pot of hot soup is just the cure for a cold day and makes an excellent feast to share with friends. This zesty recipe has become one of the most-requested at my house, in any season, because of its rich taste and creamy texture. Its great served with pan-fried cheese quesadillas for dipping.
6 tablespoons cooking oil
8-10 corn tortillas, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground or whole coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 quarts canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 medium can diced tomatoes with garlic & basil
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (a handful)
1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Optional: Sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro for topping
In a large pot, heat oil over moderately high heat. Add half the tortilla strips and fry, stirring, until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.
Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion, garlic, and spices to the remaining oil; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cilantro leaves, and one-third of the tortilla strips. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes; remove the bay leaves. While the soup simmers, season chicken to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; cook until browned and set aside.
With an immersion blender, blend until smooth (or blend in a blender in batches). Add the chicken, bring the soup back to a simmer and cook for about 1-3 minutes.
To serve, put the remaining tortilla strips in bowls and pour in the soup. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro, cheese, and a dollop or sour cream.