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BackstoryEarthy dark pasilla chile (sometimes called negro)... its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacan, in west-central Mexico, it's ancho chile. In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forwarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy).
- 1 large dried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded
- One 15-oz can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
- 2 tblsp vegetable or olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 1 large sprig fresh epazote, if you have one
- 4 (about 1-1/4 lbs total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2 inch thick cubes
- 1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1-1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded Mexican melting cheese, or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
- A generous 4 cups (about 6 oz) roughly broken tortilla chips
- 1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving
- Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds, until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender, along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, but it won't completely puree the chile.)
- Heat the oil in a large (4 quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender; set the pan aside. Process until smooth.
- Return the pan to medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and epazote if usiing. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).
- Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips among the serving bowls. When the chicken is done, ususally about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Pass the lime separately.
- Rotisserie or grilled chicken can stand in for the raw chicken breasts (add it at the last second).