Thursday, March 11, 2010

top chef experiment: take nine (sopa azteca)

I just had to try this soup by Rick Bayless.

I actually didn't realize he was so famous for it until, um, 30 seconds ago when I did a quick google seach with his name and the soup. I just wanted to give a Mexican recipe a try.

Mexican flavours are not ones I indulge in much. I think I've been a bit jaded by my general perception that Mexican food has been franchised out and reduced to chihuahuas yapping about tacos and quesadillas.


On one of the few occasions that SeaBass decided to take me on a romantic dinner date (this was at the beginning of our relationship. The attempts at romance have only gone downhill from here) he made a reservation and would only tell me that he was taking me out for a wonderful meal of "real" Mexican food at this restaurant he had heard about. As we drove closer to our destination I started to get a bad feeling about just where he had "heard about" said restaurant.

Woman's intuition is a powerful thing.

We were headed for "Mexicali Rosa's". He had heard about it on the radio. In one of their incessantly repeated commercials.

We were headed for the typical Mexican fair of tortilla chips and salsa and crappy margaritas. I was trying very hard to be pleasant.

The funny thing was that SeaBass totally didn't recall being inundated with commercials with this place. He was sure that someone he knew had given him a hot tip on a great place.

Their ad agency better have been well paid.

SeaBass also did not recall, until he saw the sign for the restaurant, that we had just eaten at another one of their franchises a couple of weeks before with some of his rowdy friends.

Yep, his romantic destination was filled with families with screaming children, drunken boys and bad food.

I think that's the night he gave up control in our relationship.

Hmm...maybe some good did come out of it.

I have for some time now been wanting to give Mexican fare another chance though. Especially since my brother just returned from a trip during which he got to experience a bit of the real Mexico. No Acapulcan resort food on this journey.

Now he keeps walking around mumbling about "tortas" every time he gets within hearing distance of me. Can anyone help me with this?

Back to Bayless and his Sopa Azteca. It was damn good. I loved all the layering of flavours involved. The tomato base was very nice on its own but building on the soup with the condiments and garnishes to suit your own taste was my favourite part.

(Full disclosure: This pic is from Bayless' website. I was having an off day when I made the soup and hated all the pics I ended up with. I had a bit of a temper tantrum and deleted them all. I am a huge whining baby. Thank you for understanding.)

Sopa Azteca
(adapted from Rick Bayless recipe on
Serves 6

*1 large dried pasilla chile stemmed and seeded
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 med white onion sliced
3 garlic cloves peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
**1 large epazote sprig
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cubed into 1/2 inch
1 large ripe avocado pitted and flesh scopped out
1 1/2 cups Mexican melting cheese 
approx 4 cups broken tortilla chips
1/2 cup mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraiche
1 large lime cut into wedges

*no pasilla chiles in my neck of the woods. I used a scotch bonnet and dried red chili.
** I substituted some dried oregano and savoury

Quickly toast the chili over an open flame (or in a dry pan over medium heat on both sides) for just a few seconds.
Break chili into pieces and put in blender with tomato and juices.
Heat oil in large saucepan over med. high.
Add onion and garlic.
Saute until golden.
Remove onion and garlic with slotted spoon (leave behind as much oil as possible.)
Put onion and garlic in blender with tomato and chili.
Blend until smooth.
Return pan to med high heat. 
When pan is hot add tomato puree and stir constantly until reduced to tomato paste consistency (approx 6 mins.)
Add chicken broth and epazote (or herbs.)
Reduce heat to med low and simmer 15 mins.
Season with salt.
Approx 5 mins before serving add chicken to simmering broth.
Divide acocado, cheese and tortilla chips up soup bowls.
When chicken is cooked (5 mins) ladle soup into bowls.
Garnish with cream.


Heiko said...

No point asking you out for a hot dog then... ;-)

Cristina @ TeenieCakes said...

Looks delicious! I like the ingredients. What is Mexican melting cheese?

Trix said...

Okay, that's it - we need to send SeaBass to sensitivity training!! Or romance camp. Or something!!! I understand about pitching a fit, oh my oh my oh my do I!!

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