This summer has been rejuvenating. I’ve been going to bed around 11pm and waking up around 9 am. Some nights, I exceed the already indulgent 10-hour average.
When I wake up, my husband and I have our first breakfasts: mine, pourover coffee; his, a small bowl of cereal. Then we go for a run. When we return, I take a super cold shower in order to trick myself into thinking that my AC-less apartment is cooler than it actually is.
After my cold shower, the cooking commences. If I’m feeling extra inspired, I’ll make a smoothie for us or a hot egg breakfast as our first real meal. Otherwise, I’ll jump right into recipe testing. I’ll cook, measure, jot down, style, photograph, and repeat all over again until the late afternoon. Then I’ll sit at the computer for a few hours to organize photos, edit, write recipes and blog posts. Lunch and dinner are either super fancy iterations of what you see on the blog (70% of the time)—or if I’m wiped out from cooking (30% of the time), take out—or my classic teacher favorite: Trader Joe’s frozen meals.
It has been amazing to have this summer to work more purposefully on the blog. I’ve gotten to update the website, work on my photoshop skills and hone my writing a bit. I’ve also had a bit more fun with what I cook for the blog, trying many of the recipes that I’d sketched in my recipe journal months prior, like the London Fog Mini Cakes or today’s recipe, Sopa Azteca— AKA as tortilla soup!
There are many variations of tortilla soup. Some call it Caldo Tlapeño, Sopa Azteca or Sopa de tortilla. While some recipes call for a beef base, others use chicken. Overall, the soups are pretty similar: broth paired with crispy tortilla strips, cheese and avocado. Sour cream, lime and cilantro are common and highly suggested toppings, but ultimately optional.
The sopa azteca is delicious. The broth is hearty and smoky due to the toasted chile pasilla in the broth. Sopa Azteca is not at all spicy, and the crunchy tortilla strips, melted cheese, and slivers of creamy avocado create a multi-textured experience in every spoon. Sopa Azteca must be eaten as soon as it served or else you will end up with soggy tortilla strips in your soup. In fact, my mom always allowed us to put whatever ingredients we wanted into our soup bowls and ladled the piping hot soup right into our bowls at the kitchen table.
Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup)
Active cooking time: 1 hour
+ Beef Broth Cook Time (4 hours in crockpot)
Yields: 4-6 servings
- 1.5 teaspoon of salt
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon of oregano
- 1 lb of brisket meat, or any other cut of meat with some fat
- 1 lb of beef marrow bones
- ½ and onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 chiles pasilla, deseeded
- 8 oz of tomato sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon of oil
Crispy Tortilla Strips
- 6 tortillas, cut into thin strips
- ⅓ cup of oil
- 8 oz of shredded oaxaca cheese
- 1 whole avocado, cut into cubes or slices
- ½ bunch of cilantro, minced
- 2 lemons, cut into wedges
- Sour cream
- Beef Broth: Add 8 cups of water, beef, beef bones, garlic, onion, salt, bay leaves and oregano to crock-pot. Cook in the crock-pot on the highest setting for 4 hours. Alternatively, cook on stove-top on low heat for 2-3 hours.
- Tortilla Strips: While waiting for beef broth to cook, fry tortilla strips on medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Set on a plate covered by paper towels to soak up excess oil. If you are preparing them ahead of time, these keep well in a zip-lock bag at room temperature.
- Chile Paste: Toast deseeded pasilla chiles on pan over medium heat until soft and fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Then, add pasilla peppers and tomato sauce to blender and puree until smooth.
- Chile Paste: “Cook” pasilla-tomato sauce in a small pan on medium heat for 5 minutes. Then, add cooked pasilla tomato sauce to beef broth in crock pot.
- Beef Broth: After beef broth is cooked, depending on your method about 2-4 hours, take crock pot contents and strain soup through a fine mesh, preserving cooked beef. Discard bones, onion and garlic. Allow beef meat to cool and then shred into small pieces. Set aside.*
- Beef Broth: After beef broth is strained, keep broth at low simmer while you assemble your bowls.
- Assembly: Add shredded beef, tortilla strips (about 1.5 tortillas worth per bowl), avocado, oaxaca cheese to bowl and ladle about 1 cup of beef broth over the soup. Garnish with cilantro, lime, and sour cream. Serve immediately.**
*Feel free to cool beef broth in refrigerator and skim off excess fat. I skipped the step this time but I often prepare the beef broth in advance and cool overnight in order to make skimming the fat easier and to yield a delicious and less greasy soup.*
**It is important to serve soup right away to preserve the crispiness of the tortilla strips.**