We asked Ann Hazard, Baja aficionado and author, to share one of her favorite recipes and the story behind it. This one comes from her book, “Cooking with Baja Magic Dos.” ¡Buen provecho!
This delectable variation of an old Mexican favorite comes to you straight from Restaurant Pancho’s in Cabo San Lucas. When I was asking the owner, Mary Bragg, what she was most famous for, she didn’t hesitate one second before telling me, “Why our Tortilla Soup. Of course.” My sister, Nina, promptly ordered some, and since both of us are connoisseurs of tortilla soup, we were curious to see if Mary’s would prove to be as memorable as she said.
She was right on. This soup is pure Baja Magic. While most versions I’ve run across use only one kind of broth, this one uses two … one pot of chicken broth and another of Mary’s salsa ranchera. Over the years (and after making this many times) I have combined the salsa recipe into the soup recipe for ease of preparation. It is incomparable served over crunchy, just fried tortilla strips and garnished with Mexican crema, fresh avocado chunks and cilantro!
This is a true culinary delight. And if you ever get to Cabo, be sure and visit Pancho’s. We stop in for drinks or a meal whenever we’re in town (which is often). The Mexican staff is entertaining, courteous and professional. Not only is the food delicious, but the restaurant’s half palapa and half open air ambience is vintage Baja.
PANCHO’S TORTILLA SOUP
Serves eight to ten
1 whole chicken
3 quarts water
4 tbsp powdered chicken bouillon (Mary uses Knorr Suiza)
1 tbsp dried oregano
4 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
5 poblano chiles, thinly sliced
8 large, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 large, white onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 corn tortillas, cut into strips about ½ inch wide
½ cup corn or canola oil
2 avocados cut into chunks
1½ cup Chihuahua or jack cheese, grated
1 cup crema media ácida or sour cream
Fresh cilantro, in sprigs
Cook chicken in water and bouillon for one hour. Remove chicken, debone and cut into chunks. Return to pan, add seasonings and cover.
Place chiles, onion, tomatoes and garlic in large skillet with oil (this may take 2 skillets) and sauté until cooked, about 15 minutes.
About 20 minutes prior to serving, combine the chicken and stock with the vegetables and heat thoroughly.
Deep fry the tortilla strips and drain on paper towels. Divide each among eight to 10 large soup bowls. Fill almost to top with the soup. Then garnish with a few chunks avocado, some grated cheese, a float of crema and a sprig of cilantro. Serve immediately and prepare to gloat. Leftovers are great the next day too.