It’s finally getting cold enough across the country to start to think about warmer, heartier game day foods. (What’s that? 88º in Minneapolis this weekend? Too bad. Their team is in London this weekend.) A soup that can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve. A spicy, filling soup that you can easily throw into giant thermos for tailgating.
A soup that incorporates football’s natural accompaniment, Buffalo chicken.
As I’ve said many times over my seven seasons of posting recipes for football, I love hot wings, but making them at home can be a lot of work for not a lot of reward. It’s much better to make wraps, dips and even pasta salads than deal with the amount of hassle that goes into frying wings at home. And no, oven-frying your wings doesn’t work as well as deep frying, I don’t care if you set your oven to “surface of the sun” hot. Or even “Peyton Manning fantasy football points” hot, an oven setting only seen at higher elevations.
Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Soup
Tortilla soup is a natural fit for the spicy chicken treatment as you can incorporate the traditional sides of carrots and celery into the broth, adjust the amount of peppers and hot sauce to make the soup as mild or as spicy as you like it all while getting a nice “crispy” flavor of a wing by browning the chicken. Crumbles of mild cotija cheese help tame the heat while just a little bit of blue cheese and green onions on the top keeps the soup close to its barroom roots. The tomatoes and tortilla strips round out the bowl, providing both depth and heft to the soup.
You will need:
12 ounces corn tortillas (about 12 fresh tortillas)
Canola oil or vegetable for frying, plus 1-2 tablespoons oil to cook the chicken
2 1/2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken, excess fat removed (Preferably a mix of white and dark meat)
1 medium onion, diced (approximately 2 cups)
4 large celery stalks, diced (approximately 2 cups)
1-2 good sized carrots, peeled and diced (approximately 1 cup)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 chipotle peppers packed in adobe sauce, plus 1 tablespoon adobe sauce from the can
Kosher salt and cracked pepper, about a teaspoon of each
6 cups chicken stock
1 14-15 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup hot sauce
3-4 green onions, diced
2-3 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled (May substitute shredded Monterey jack cheese if desired.)
2-4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Cut the tortillas in half and then into strips. In cast iron skillet or frying pan heat enough oil to fry the tortilla strips, about 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom of the skillet should do. If you are unsure when the oil is hot enough, wait for the oil to shimmer and throw a pinch of flour in. If the flour sizzles, your oil is hot enough. (Somewhere between 350º-375º should be good.) Working in small batches as not to crowd the pan and reduce the temperature too much, fry the tortilla strips on both sides until golden brown and then drain on clean kitchen towels. Set aside for serving in the soup.
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, brown the chicken in a tablespoons or two of oil over medium-high heat, about three-four minutes a side depending on thickness. Once the chicken has cooked all the way through, remove from the pan and transfer it to a cutting board to rest. In the same pot, add the diced onions, carrots and celery and reduce the heat to medium. If needed, add another touch of oil to the pot to prevent your mirepoix from sticking to the bottom of the pot. (Chances are you won’t need it as the chicken should have released a little bit of fat into the pan, but just in case.) When the vegetables start to soften, add the garlic, chipotle peppers, adobe sauce, salt and pepper. Stir around with a wooden spoon and allow the garlic to open up for a minute or two and then add the chicken stock. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to make sure you release all the browned bits into the soup.
As the stock starts to heat, shred the chicken into soup spoon-friendly sized pieces. Add the shredded chicken back into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the diced tomatoes and the hot sauce. Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
To serve, place a small handful of tortilla strips into a bowl and then spoon the soup over them. Give the tortilla soup a stir in the bowl and then crumble a small bit of cotija and blue cheese over the soup and then top with diced scallions.
This soup can be made ahead of time and gentle reheated on the stove, just reserve adding the tortilla strips until serving. (You can even make the tortilla strips a couple of days ahead of time if stored in an airtight container.)
Still looking for more hot wings-inspired snacks for Sunday? In the past I have made Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad, Shredded Buffalo Chicken Wraps, Blue Cheese Pierogies With Buffalo Sauce, Buffalo Chicken Wontons, the always requested Buffalo Chicken Dip, and an special adaptation of Buffalo Chicken Meatballs for a certain someone who does not like cheese.