This happens to me all the time: I go to the store in search of a product that I fell in love with, only to find that it has been discontinued. I?ve started buying triplicates of certain products, knowing that the next time I look for it, it will probably be gone. When this happens with toiletries or food items, there are always other options. After grumbling and searching, you can find something comparable. But when a restaurant closes, there is no recourse...
I?d never been to Compadres Mexican Bar and Grill before I met Andy. The first time he took me, we had margaritas at the bar. Happy hour was indeed happy, with $1 margaritas before 4pm. He told me that their tortilla soup was the best he?d ever had, and it was pretty much all he ever ordered. The next time we went, I took his advice and ordered it. I was hooked. I don?t think I ever tried anything else. Even on the hottest days, we would go sit on the patio with our margaritas and have a bowl of hot soup. The first thing we did upon getting home from a ten-day trip to Tahiti, where Mexican food was non-existent, was go to Compadres for the soup. I think I?ve made my point?we loved that soup.
So imagine our horror when one day two years ago, they closed their doors. Just like that, our tortilla soup was gone. I searched high and low online to try to find the recipe, or at least a copycat version, but there was nothing. Tortilla soups run the gamut?some are tomato based, some are chicken broth based. All have varying ingredients, and all claim to be authentic.
This is my recreation of Compadres tortilla soup:
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Makes 4 large servings
8 corn tortillas
vegetable oil for frying
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano pepper, small diced
1/2 -1 jalapeno pepper, small diced
2 stalks celery, diced
5 14 ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can Mexican recipe sliced tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken*
1 tablespoon cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon epazote (optional)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Monterey Jack cheese
For tortilla strips:
Cut tortillas into 1/2? strips. Fry in vegetable oil untilcrispy. Salt and set aside.
In a large dutch oven, sauté onion, garlic, poblano, jalapeno, and celery in vegetable oil until soft, about 10-12 minutes.
Add broth, tomatoes, chicken, cilantro, and spices and bring to a simmer. Check seasonings; add salt and pepper as needed. Let simmer for about 30 minutes.
Serve with tortilla strips, cheese and fresh cilantro.
*Shortcut: I use the pre-cooked rotisserie chickens for this. (Just make sure it isn?t seasoned with any unusual flavors.)
To us, what makes this soup so good is the combination of the melted cheese, the crunchy, salty tortilla strips, and the homey, cozy chicken broth. It is our version of a comforting chicken noodle soup.
Andy still talks about the first time I made this soup. He just couldn?t believe it. I knew I had hit the mark when he took his first bite and his eyes got wide. The recipe has morphed a little since that first time?it?s a little spicier, and a little more flavorful, but the essence is still the same. And every time we have it, we think about Compadres and wish we could pop over for happy hour.
I guess I?ve got to get around to replicating their margaritas, too?