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Turkey Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup is one of those foods that has firm roots in a traditional Mexican dish, but by the time it gets to the table in America, it has evolved and changed considerably. That's okay with me, and one of the things I love about cooking in America. We are not so hung up on our traditions, and that gives us a lot of freedom in our cooking. So, if you don't like something in this recipe, leave it out, change it, whatever you like. You're the one that has to eat it! And just in case you don't happen to have a half gallon of turkey stock on hand, you may use chicken broth (canned or homemade), leftover turkey stock from your Thanksgiving and/or Christmas turkey, or a combination of both to make a half gallon. (From David Bulla's article on turkey leftovers, which details instructions for making rich turkey stock.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 corn tortillas, sliced up
  • 2 cups cooked turkey meat, spoon size
  • 1/2 gallon rich turkey stock (see Note below)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (Key limes preferred)
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup mild chili powder (pasilla, ancho, or even paprika)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Approximately 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with water
  • Garnish: Tortillas, cut into thin strips and fried crisp, or crushed chips, diced avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, fresh cilantro leaves, lime wedges

Sauté the vegetables and the tortillas in the olive oil until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Season conservatively with salt and pepper. (You want it to taste like it needs a little salt at this point.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tortillas are dissolved and broken up into the soup and the vegetables are very soft and partially dissolved, about 30 minutes. At this point, I like to do a little cornstarch mixed with water to give additional viscosity to the soup. This will allow the small particles of tortilla and veggies to stay slightly suspended in the soup. You don't want it thick like a sauce. You want to add a little body to the watery consistency. It should take about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of water, depending on how much liquid has evaporated. Check the seasoning again at the end and adjust as necessary.

To serve, ladle into a bowl over the crispy tortilla strips, and garnish with a happy portion of avocado and cheese. You can also add fresh cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime if you like.

Makes one half gallon.

Prep time: 1 hour; Cook time: 30 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

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