Someone recently asked us what we do for fun, and we mentioned this little food blog of ours. She then asked what kind of food we blog about, and we weren’t quite sure how to respond. “Um, all kinds?” Basically, we blog about the food that we like and cook (or attempt to cook), which includes many different types of cuisine. We particularly enjoy cooking (and eating) Tex-Mex at home, partly because it is easily adaptable — depending on personal preferences and ingredient availability — yet incorporating just a few key elements still gives you that unmistakable Tex-Mex flavor. This soup is the perfect example of a Tex-Mex dish for which there are numerous different recipes and variations, but the rich and slightly spicy tomato/chile broth and thin, short noodles are the signature elements that define this soup and make it one of our newest comfort food favorites. We found the recipe in a cookbook by fellow food blogger, Homesick Texan, and adapted it by adding ground turkey to make it slightly more hearty as a main course. The original recipe provides an excellent template for the base of the soup, which you can then embellish however you see fit. We may try adding shredded chicken (rather than ground turkey or beef) the next time we have chicken leftovers. The possibilities are endless.
The ingredients for the basic soup recipe include: 3-4 dried guajillo chiles, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, 1/2 a medium-sized yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes, 8 cups chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 8 ounces fideo pasta (or angel hair or other similar thin pasta, broken into 1 inch pieces) and salt & pepper. We added about 1.5 pounds of ground turkey. Top the finished soup with your preferred Tex-Mex garnishes: lime, cilantro, avocado, sour cream, cheese, etc.
We found the dried guajillo chiles at our local Kroger grocery store. Other types of dried chiles would probably also work if you can’t find guajillo, which is a relatively mild chile. Cut off the stems of the chiles and scrape out the seeds. Then toast the chiles on both sides in a hot, dry skillet until they start to puff up a little — about 30 seconds total.
Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the chiles and bring the water to a boil.
Turn off the heat and let the chiles soak in the hot water until they soften — about 30 minutes. My chiles kept floating to the surface and I wasn’t sure if that would technically count as “soaking,” so I used some tongs to weigh them down. (This step was likely unnecessary, but I’m a bit of a literalist when it comes to recipes. I’m like the Amelia Bedelia of cooking.)
If you are using ground meat in your soup, cook the meat in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat until it is browned. Remove the meat to a plate, leaving about a teaspoon of rendered fat in the pot. Depending on how lean the meat is, you may want to line the plate with paper towels to soak up any excess fat. Our turkey was very lean and did not need to drain any further.
If you aren’t using any meat in the soup, heat about a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the Dutch oven or pot, then add the chopped onion and a dash of salt, and cook until the onion softens — about 5-7 minutes. Otherwise, cook the onion in the rendered fat from the browned meat.
Add the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant — about 30 seconds.
When the onions and garlic are done, place them in a blender along with the softened chiles, crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of chicken broth, chili powder, cumin, allspice and cayenne. Puree until the ingredients are smooth.
Add a teaspoon of oil to the Dutch oven or pot and heat to medium heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often, until the pasta barely begins to brown — about 2-4 minutes. We couldn’t find the fideo pasta, so we used thin spaghetti.
Add the pureed ingredients to the pasta, along with the remaining 7 cups of chicken broth and bring the soup to a boil. Continue simmering until the pasta becomes tender and the liquid thickens. The original recipe calls for simmering the soup for about 10 minutes, but we ended up cooking ours longer (about 25 minutes) in order to thicken it to our preferred consistency.
We garnished the soup with grated monterey jack cheese and avocado. We’re happy to have another Tex-Mex “sopa” in our rotation — similar in taste to chicken tortilla soup, but a little closer in texture to black bean soup — especially one that we can modify based on flavor preferences and ingredients we have on hand.