Sunday, September 25, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today, I decided to make chicken tortilla soup in the slow cooker.

It finally feels like fall is on its way up here in Northern California, and soup is on my mind.

There are a thousand ways you could make this soup, but this is my version- at least for this batch.

What you need:

One whole chicken (needs to fit in crock pot)- you can substitute legs, thighs or breasts.
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 onions
4-6 cloves chopped garlic
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 green anaheim chili peppers
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp salt (more to taste)
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 tsp chili powder
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp enchilada seasoning

sour cream
tortilla strips

In my version, I use a whole chicken because it gives the soup amazing flavor. If you don't feel like going through the trouble of de-boning the chicken or you want something a little lighter, you can always use cubed or shredded chicken breasts.

I have used chicken breasts on several occasions and found that the soup tastes just as great. However, if you use chicken breasts, mix half water and half chicken broth to fill the crock pot. Amounts will vary depending on crock pot size. I am also using a whole chicken today because I will be making shredded chicken enchiladas and will be using part of the chicken to stuff them.

Allowing the chicken to slow cook in the crock pot with all the seasoning and flavors of the soup makes amazing, mouth-watering shredded chicken.

Last time I made this Aaron was moaning throughout the entire meal.

I kid you not.

First, place whole chicken in crock pot.

Cover with chopped onion-
note: my family LOVES onion. If your family doesn't, reduce to one chopped onion.

Add chopped bell peppers, chopped Anaheim chili and crushed garlic.

Add cumin, enchilada sauce, salt, chili powder and bay leaves.
Top with entire can of crushed tomato.

Add frozen corn.

Last, fill with water (or, chicken broth).
Turn on LOW for 6-8 hours.

The hardest part of this meal is de-boning the chicken. It does take some time and you will have to get your hands dirty, but whole chicken will give the best results.

First, turn off the crock pot and let it cool. Remove the chicken chunks and place in a separate bowl. Allow time for the chicken to cool completely first.

Using your hands remove meat from the bones (it should practically fall off). Place bones in separate bowl and meat back in the soup (in my case, I will be using the chicken for enchiladas later). You should have tender, juicy meat.

Take some time to separate meat from bones- your patience will pay off when you don't find yourself choking on bones later.

If you are using a whole chicken, you may notice there is a significant amount of fat making its way to the surface of the soup. Some of this gives it great flavor, but too much is, well, too much.

With someones help, you can strain the soup broth into a separate bowl. Once strained, place the broth in the refrigerator until it cools completely. You will come back to a well defined fatty layer that is easily removed using a large spoon.

This will not remove all the excess fat, but it will leave enough to keep the soup flavorful.

Pour the broth back in the bowl or pot containing all the vegetables and chicken, re-heat and add any additional seasoning you feel necessary

I always top mine with fresh cilantro, a spoon full of sour cream, tortilla chips and a layer of cheddar cheese. This is all optional, but if your family is anything like mine, it will become mandatory.

There are perhaps easier ways to make chicken tortilla soup and definitely recipes that take less time. However, this method has always generated the most flavorful results in my kitchen.

Let me know what you think. Do you have any favorite tortilla soup recipes?
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