Aztec Soup

Ok so. I waffled a little about posting this video, because I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but decided in the end that it was perfectly suitable as an instructional and that it needn’t be much more than that!*** The soup, at any rate, is delicious.

Of all the things that I’ve made repeatedly over the years, this may go the farthest back and is the one that the most people have asked me to show them how to make. I’ve been making this soup since I was in high school, 20 years ago. It has changed little over the years. It may have as little to do with the Aztecs as I do, but that’s what I’ve always called it anyway.

There’s a quick way and a protracted way to go about it. I’ll describe the longer version first.

  • A whole chicken
  • Onions
  • Poblano peppers
  • Ancho chiles
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Limes
  • Fresh tortillas
  • Cilantro
  • Mix of Cheddar and Jack cheese

Make chicken stock. I’ve discussed this in another post, so I won’t go on about it here (except maybe to remind you again to put a bowl under the colander when you strain it so you don’t pour what you’re trying to keep down the drain!!). For this particular soup, you can rehydrate some ancho chiles in the stock as it simmers. This allows you to capture all that nice chile tea!  Anchos are great, and with the lime are really the core flavor of this soup.  “Ancho” means wide, and is the name they give the dried version of poblano chiles.  AHA!  Usually in the supermarket poblanos are dark green, but as they mature, they turn red (like bell peppers) and get sweeter.  The dried version is not a particularly spicy chile, but is super fruity and flavorful.  It sort of tastes like apricots.

Roast poblano peppers over open flame, turning them now and then.  The goal is to char/blister the skin.  Do this HOT.  The cooler you do it, the more you cook the chile pepper before blistering the skin, and I happen to like my roasted chiles to still have a little resistance to them, especially if they’re going into a soup.  Once they’re charred, place them in a plastic bag and let them rest.  They’ll sweat in there like a little chile sauna, and by the time they’ve cooled, the skins will come off easily.  Peel them, core them, remove the seeds, cut them into ribbons and reserve.

Juice some limes.  Lots!

Make some tortilla chips.  Hot oil.  A wok works well to give you a little depth without having to use TOO much oil.  Work in batches, and if you have a weak stove, allow the oil to get back up to temp between those batches.  Making your own is SO much better than buying the bagged kind.  Homemade ones are thicker and have a completely different texture.  They hold up MUCH better in soup, too.  When you pull them out of the oil, let them drain on some brown paper, and immediately salt them!!

Slice onions.  Slice the hydrated ancho chiles.  Dice some garlic.

Put a nice big heavy soup pot on the stove, and warm it up over medium heat.  Coat the bottom with oil.  Drop in the garlic and the chiles.  Let these simmer and infuse the oil for a moment, then add a good amount of ground cumin.  The cumin is super absorbent, and may gum up the works if you haven’t got enough oil in the pot..  no problem!  Add a little more.  Eventually add the onions, and saute the whole mix.  Once the onions are starting to go a little translucent and have taken on the red of the chiles, add the chicken, and stir to coat.  Add chicken stock to cover.  Allow this to sit over very low heat for half an hour or so.  Just let it steep.  When you’re ready to eat, add the roasted poblanos and lime juice.

Serve it however you like!  I like to fill a bowl with torilla chips and cheese, and just ladle the soup over the top.  A little cilantro and, TA DA!

  • If they’re in season, it is delicious to add slices of avocado at the last moment.  Use one on the slightly firm side of ripe and it’ll hold up in there beautifully.
  • As described here, this isn’t a super spicy soup!  Anchos and poblanos are both very mild.  Feel free to spice it up with the addition of some hotter chiles, fresh or dried.
  • The quick version mentioned above is to skip the process of making stock.  If you use decent store bought stock, and the meat from a rotisserie chicken, you can make this soup in about 20 minutes flat, and it’s still awfully good!

***Those of you still reading are total champs.  I’m experimenting with this whole directions for cooking thing.  Soon I will be writing a proper diatribe against the “recipe.”  I hate the word, and I’ll try to convince you to hate it too.  In the mean time, I’m liking this idea of a visual aid..  Not a proper instructional video with spoken directions and etc, but instead something that captures the spirit of the thing a little.  I feel that a supa fast video (could also be a bunch of stills, but they’d take up too much room!), along with some written instructions could be a working combination.  Please let me know if it works for you..  or, at the very least is entertaining!

33 Replies to “Aztec Soup”

  1. Ezra my man you are the best, once again you regaled us with a great dish and a fantastic cooking video. The Food Network should take notice, maybe you should pitch a show to their network. Also I do like the way you drink your beer.
    To your health my friend, we’re still praying for you.

  2. I haven’t tried many of your recipes yet (the boyfriend usually cooks) but this is one I definitely want to try.

  3. you need to meet my friend joe. he hates the word recipes, too, and the soup is exactly the kind of thing he’d make.
    i love the videos- i’ve always LOVED watching people cook and you always learn something watching someone to cook even if it’s something you’ve made before. so keep it up 🙂

  4. Ezra, why are we so distant geographically, as to not be bestest friends in the whole world who alternate nights, you cooking one, Carissa cooking the next (with me mixing the drinks). WHY EZRA, WHY? JUST THINK OF THE FOOD!!

    And I’m thinking Travel Channel. You, the hipper, cooler, gentler, more zen Bourdain, showing us around some of the more amazing cultural hot spots of NYC during the day, cooking us an amazing meal at night. I would be begging my DVR for a new episode every night, I can assure you that!

    Fuck cancer! We’ve got plans!

  5. I don’t even cook (being in college and having access neither to a suitable kitchen nor proper ingredients) but I honestly love watching the videos. and then wishing I were eating whatever you cook. keep it up!

  6. Ez!
    That is awsome!
    All the cooking videos are usually too long and boring,
    This is so much different! And better!!!
    Even people who don’t like cooking might change their mind after watching it!

    Please keep them comming!

    Love & Hugs

  7. In Texas we call this Tortilla Soup:-) This looks much better than what I’ve cooked! And everything is freshly made, not canned or boxed. Nice work. Makes me drool.

  8. that was truly amazing. i love your food movies! you could put a little bleacher section in your kitchen and have a live viewing with polite clapping. and semi-loud beer tasting.

  9. oh man!! now I am really hungry! this is one I may try to make seems a good soup for winter in New Orleans. thanks sweetheart!!

  10. holy crap!~….i am so making this & inviting friends over to enjoy ….i lurk in your stream on flickr….. & light incense at the buddha for you sending healing thoughts as best i can to you…. =) beautiful video quality….what did you shoot it with?

  11. i love the way you write/ photograph/ film your cooking. i want to make that soup right now! i agree with the guy who said you should be on the cooking channel

  12. Certainly entertaining.
    Fast video is just right.
    Struggling with the lack of quantities, though.
    Anxiously awaiting the diatribe.

  13. Oh man, I just finished making the soup. Wow, I don’t know what is better. Eating it or going in and out of my apt to smell how wonderfull it is. This is a recipy of love. I can’t wait to share it.

  14. yum! i’ll be making this tonight. like the video. i’m not the best baker because of my own personal issues with following directions (recipes).

  15. drat. i didn’t get to make this soup tonight but it’s ON for tomorrow. had to say that i really like the supafast video. i watched calamari just now, as well. works…

  16. hey ezra,
    I’m reading your blog regularly and your chicken soup with rice became one of my winter-food-standards – but I used to skip the food-films. until today! today I watched all of them, they are great! the fast-forward-style is perfect!
    (I did a timelapse-cooking-film ages ago: – but that’s a different story.)
    what I just wanted to ask: what is “Poblano pepper” and “Ancho chiles” – I could not find a proper translation on the internet. both seem to be some kinds of pepper? I fear we don’t have them here in germany, so I’ll try with “normal” green peppers.
    anyway, it sounds and looks super-yummy!and the calamari will be my next victim.
    best – and take care!

  17. we are making the soup right now. The fast film, the music, it’s brilliant! and Peter
    likes the beer opener a lot. beer and bourbon ? whoda’ thunk? chef special?
    please cont’ with more cooking videos and by the way your knife skills make you
    a bastard! we love it . your amigos from santa fe

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