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Chicken, Tomato and Tortilla Soup

6 Chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
1 cn (15-oz) peeled Italian tomatoes
1 md Onion; chopped
1 Fresh hot green chile pepper (such as jalapeno), seeded and chopped
1 Garlic clove; crushed
3 c Water
2 2/3 c Chicken broth
1 ts Ground cumin
1 ts Salt
1/4 ts Freshly ground black pepper
1 Bay leaf
1 pk (10-oz) frozen corn; defrosted
2 tb Chopped fresh cilantro
4 Corn tortillas
1 tb Vegetable oil
Lime wedges; for garnish
Freshly grated Romano cheese, for garnish (we used some really good Vermont white sharp cheddar)

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the chicken thighs, skin side down, until the skin is golden brown, about 3 minutes. (Do not turn the chicken.) Transfer the chicken to a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker. Discard all of the fat in the skillet.

2. In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes with their juice, the onion, chile pepper, and garlic. Add to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato mixture, water, chicken broth, cumin, salt, pepper, and bay leaf to the slow cooker and stir well.

3. Cover and slow cook until the chicken thighs are tender, 5 to 6 hours on low (200 F).

4. Remove the chicken thighs and cool slightly. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and remove the meat from the bones. Coarsely chop the chicken meat and return to the slow cooker. Stir in the corn and chopped cilantro.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly brush both sides of the tortillas with the oil. Using a sharp knife, cut the tortillas into strips about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Spread the tortilla strips on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.

6. Remove the bay leaf from the soup. Serve the soup in individual bowls, topping each with crisp tortilla strips. Let each guest squeeze on lime juice to taste (don't skip the lime juice, it really makes the recipe!), and pass a bowl of grated cheese for sprinkling.

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