My favorite soup has, for many years, been the Tortilla Soup served at Houston's. Sadly, they're not big on sharing recipes. They also serve my favorite Spinach-Artichoke Dip, and they make a mean burger. I had some cooked chicken in the fridge to be used up and had the soup in mind, so I decided to make my own. It has been so long since I've had it now that I can't remember the taste to say how close it comes to Houston's version, but I'll be happily eating bowls of this for the next few days.
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 lg red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
(with or without seeds depending on your heat tolerance)
1 T olive oil
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 can creamed-style corn
3 c chicken broth, divided
Cooked chicken, torn or diced (I used 3 breasts)
6 oz shredded Pepper-Jack cheese
Stir in the salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Mmmm that smells good!
Next add a good handful of freshly chopped cilantro; I'd say 3-4 tablespoons. Tear two or three of your corn tortillas into pieces and add to the pot, letting the whole thing come up to a boil.
Reduce the heat and let simmer for about a half hour. This will give the broth a chance to reduce and concentrate, and the tortillas a chance to soften and break down to act as a thickener and boost that corn flavor.
While that's going on, stack a few more tortillas and cut them in half. Stack the halves and cut into match-stick sized strips. Line a tray with foil and spray with cooking spray, then arrange the tortilla strips on the tray and spray the tops with additional cooking spray. Bake at 350 until golden. You could deep fry them, but why waste the oil and the calories - not to mention the clean-up from potential splatters. If you want, you can certainly sprinkle them with salt when they come out of the oven, especially if you make a lot and anticipate snacking on leftovers later.
As a side note, this is also how I make bagel and pita chips - sprinkling various spices on the tops after I've sprayed them. Sometimes I'll brush olive oil on a tray instead of the spray, then drizzle a little over the top.
OK, back to the soup ... now that the liquid has reduced significantly, add that additional 1c of chicken broth. That will loosen it up again while also cooling it down for the next step. If you have an immersion/stick blender, run that around the pot to puree the soup. Otherwise, transfer it in batches to a blender to puree - thus wanting to thin/cool it first with the additional broth.
Add the chicken and shredded cheese and continue cooking until the chicken is heated through and the cheese has melted.
To serve, ladle up a bowl and top with the crispy tortilla strips and any number of other goodies - a dollop of sour cream, chopped avocado, cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, onions, a few kernels or corn or black beans, etc.