As I stood framing the window in my firehouse kitchen contemplating the night’s dinner, I watched the fellas bring the rigs around in the freezing cold. The south, know for it’s sweltering heat and humidity during the summertime surprises many with it’s bitter bite of winter. And I cannot deny that weather plays a large part on where my action plan for food drives me and considering my brethren and I where exposed to the elements during most of it, soup was the call of the day.


Given the near freezing temps and busy work schedule of the day, I usually go towards a hearty soup. Being inexpensive is just one of the bonuses (this entire meal cost less then the steak one of my rookies paid for the shift previously) as they’re also filling, healthy and too easy.  My California roots will often drive me towards Latin flavors so Mexican Tortilla Soup came to mind.


A few after the fire critiques: Some will preach adding tortillas to the soup to thicken it up, and I have, in other iterations, but I enjoy this consistency more.  The chicken can be substituted with shredded pork. For a different take, consider adding fire-roasted tomatillos in place of the tomatoes. And yes, I always prefer fresh ingredients versus canned but in the case of corn, they’re out of season so canned or frozen are preferred. Indulge.




      Chicken breasts or thighs (4-6)

Onion (chopped)

Celery (4 stalks, chopped)

Carrots (4 carrots, chopped)

Garlic (4 cloves, minced)

Chicken stock (2½ quarts)

Fire-roasted tomatoes (1 can)

Black Beans (1 can, rinsed)

Corn (1 can)

Jalapeno (2-3, seeded and minced)

Cumin (1 tsp.)

Coriander (1 tsp.)

Cilantro (¼ bunch, chopped)

Tortillas (6 cut lengthwise into ½” strips)

Olive oil

Pepper and Salt





            *Crema/sour cream

            *Cheddar cheese




            Dutch oven

            *Small Skillet for frying (optional)




  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Place the chicken breasts/thighs skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to slightly brown. Add the garlic, cumin and coriander and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, corn, black beans, jalapenos, 1 Tbsp. salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 tsp. pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in half, then cut them crosswise into ½-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste.
  4. *Optional: fry the tortillas in shallow oil over medium heat or serve with store bought tortilla chips


  • Consider when serving: sliced avocado, crema/sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and the fried tortilla chips

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