Tortilla Soup with Pasilla Chile and Masa Harina
Many years ago, I fell in love with Tortilla Soup over dinner al fresco on a lovely courtyard in Sinaloa, Mexico.
We were on a trip to the Barrancas del Cobre and had an overnight at a quaint hotel in Los Mochis. The soup was divine – a simple chicken broth with melting queso fresco, fried tortillas, and herbs. When we got back home I had to recreate it, and still do to this day.
Fast forward more than a couple of decades in these pandemic times, and I find myself watching more Facebook videos than before, one in particular caught my attention. A true master of Mexican cooking, Rick Bayless making a Tortilla Soup.
Now the Chef has probably made a zillion versions of tortilla soup but this one resonated with me – with its addition of mild, smoky, raisiny pasilla chiles.
As a polar opposite to my Los Mochis version with its brothy style, here I also added a quarter cup of masa harina to the soup as a thickening agent. The masa added heft and a super corn flavor. The result was an extraordinary amalgamation of complex chile and earthy corn. Rich and satisfying, it is a meal in itself.
Since pasillas are not particularly spicy…and for another layer of flavor and texture, I made an oil with the hotter chile de arbol, and sprinkled some of these toasted chile crumbles over the soup.
Tortilla Soup Recipe
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the black course:
negra modelo beer braised beef short rib with chile de arbol
wrapped in a grape leaf with oaxacan black mole sauce
black mission figs, shiitake mushrooms
crispy grape leaf chip, sesame ash, black sesame seed, cacao nibs
Of the seven courses we served at our fundraiser dinner, the black course is my creative favorite. I looked to Mexican cuisine experts – Chefs Rick Bayless, Patricia Quintana, and Javier Plascencia for inspiration. I learned about making sesame ash while Guest-Chef-for-the-Day at Moto Restaurant in Chicago last January and had been wanting to try Chef Homaro Cantu’s modernist technique in a dish ever since. What appears to be ash is black sesame seed oil converted into a powder. It serves visual interest as well as a flavor complement to the sesame seed in the mole.
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First in a Series of Superiores Tacos Vegetarianos
Garlicky Green Chard & Shiitake Tacos
Seared Onion, Cana de Cabra Spanish Goat Cheese, Chiffonade of Epazote
Corn & Whole Wheat Blend Tortilla, Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa
It was worth a drive down to the Bestway Supermercado to pick up fresh epazote for these extraordinario vegetarian tacos. These tacos are not your traditional tacos sans carne. This flavor profile stands on its own. In fact, the addition of chicken or pork or steak couldn’t improve on their fresh earthy robust sabor.
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Poblano Chiles Charred on the Grill
Cover the hot charred poblanos with a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove the skin and seeds, slice into strips. Set aside.
The short ribs are browned in my Le Creuset French Oven,
then removed from the pan. Sliced onion is cooked until golden, then add finely chopped garlic. Chopped tomatoes are added, cook for about 3 minutes more. The sliced poblanos, browned short ribs, plus salt and epazote are all nestled into the pan, covered, and braised at 325°F for about 1 1/2 hours.
The epazote gives this dish its traditional Mexican flavor. I have fallen in love with this herb and its intriguing aroma reminiscent of kerosene. This fabulous dish is the creation of Chef Rick Bayless.
The detailed recipe can be found here.
I made this dish for my brother Bill. Knowing I was preparing a meat dish with Mexican origins, he stopped at the wine shop on his way over. The Bellum El Principio 2005 was one of two excellent recommendations. This is a Spanish wine made from 100% monastrell old vines. A complex and earthy wine, somewhat spicy, with a mixed berry fruit character, powerful yet smooth. The name “Bellum” comes from a local prehistoric cave painting. Perfect pairing with Beef Short Ribs and Poblanos! Thanks Billy.
We enjoyed this dish with white rice and Christmas Lima beans. I sent Bill home with some leftovers and when we talked later in the week, we both agreed that this dish was even better the next day! I’ve long been a fan of Rick Bayless and his restaurants in Chicago – Frontera Grill and Topolobambo. ¡Muchas Gracias RB!