Mi­choacán style tor­tilla soup

Lonely Planet Magazine (US) - - Easy Trips -

Mi­choacán’s lovely lake­side town of Pátzcuaro is known first and fore­most for its col­or­ful Day of the Dead fes­tiv­i­ties, but it’s also the birth­place of sopa tarasca (Taras­can soup). The story be­gins with Rafael Gar­cía Cor­rea, aka “don Rafa,” a cook work­ing in Pátzcuaro’s Gran Ho­tel in the 1960s.

Don Rafa wanted to cre­ate a dish with af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble in­gre­di­ents, so he came up with a tomato-based tor­tilla soup. Lit­tle did he know that his con­coc­tion would be­come down­right le­gendary. Nowa­days sopa tarasca is a quin­tes­sen­tial menu item at mar­kets, din­ers and even up-mar­ket restau­rants through­out Mi­choacán.

Lu Cocina Mi­choa­cana, 36 miles north­east of Pátzcuaro in down­town More­lia, does one of the finest Taras­can soups around. More specif­i­cally it’s a “conde- style” soup, mean­ing it’s made with a tomato and pureed bean base to go along with the tor­tilla strips, pasilla chili pep­per, avo­cado and sour cream. The hot soup base is poured into the bowl right at your ta­ble, al­low­ing the fried tor­tilla to keep its crispy tex­ture.

Don Rafa would have been proud to know that the in­gre­di­ents that go into the sopa tarasca here have re­mained the same for more than a decade. “What we’ve been do­ing is mod­i­fy­ing the dish with new tech­niques,” says More­lia-born head chef Lucero Soto,

“but al­ways do­ing so with re­spect for the orig­i­nal el­e­ments that go into a sopa tarasca. The recipe has evolved, but the only thing that has re­ally changed over the years is the pre­sen­ta­tion.”

In ad­di­tion to its ex­quis­ite soup, Lu Cocina Mi­choa­cana’s priv­i­leged lo­ca­tion makes the ex­pe­ri­ence even more mem­o­rable. Housed in Ho­tel Casino, an 18th-cen­tury neo­clas­si­cal build­ing that was once home to a swanky casino, the restau­rant lies in the mid­dle of a his­toric cen­ter so well pre­served that it was de­clared a UNESCO World Her­itage site.

1. Cover the beans with wa­ter and soak overnight. Drain and re­serve.

2. Cook beans in a pres­sure cooker with 3 cups of wa­ter, one of the whole gar­lic cloves and 2 Tbsp. of onion for 40 min­utes or un­til ten­der. (If us­ing a cov­ered saucepan, it will take ap­prox­i­mately two hours.) Re­move the gar­lic and onion when the beans are done.

3. For the broth, add oil to a large pot and then sear the chicken breast, ½ cup of onion, cel­ery, car­rot, thyme, mar­jo­ram and a sprig of ci­lantro for 10 min­utes. Add the 4¼ cups of wa­ter, cover the pot and cook for 30 min­utes. Strain the broth and set aside. (Save the chicken breast to shred and serve sep­a­rately atop tostadas or in tacos.)

4. Re­move the stem from and de­vein one of the pasilla pep­pers, then chop the ¼ onion and the re­main­ing gar­lic clove. Cut the re­main­ing two pep­pers length­wise (cre­at­ing four half pep­pers). Set them aside.

5. Fry chopped onion un­til translu­cent, and then add gar­lic and the one de­veined pep­per and sauté over medium heat, be­ing care­ful not to burn.

6. In a small pot, cover the whole tomato with wa­ter and boil for five min­utes or un­til soft.

7. In a blender, purée the tomato and its broth with 1 cup chicken broth from step 3, the one pasilla pep­per, the onion and gar­lic mix­ture from step 5, and the cooked beans.

8. Pour this mix­ture along with 2 tsp. veg­etable oil into a pot and sauté for three min­utes, then add the re­main­ing chicken broth. Salt to taste and add a sprig of ci­lantro and a sprig of epa­zote. Boil for 30 min­utes then re­move the ci­lantro and epa­zote sprigs.

9. Pre­heat a pan with 1 cup veg­etable oil to medium heat, fry the tor­tilla strips un­til crispy, then re­move from the pan to a pa­per towel.

10. To serve, pour soup base into a bowl and add tor­tilla strips, half of a pasilla pep­per, sev­eral avo­cado slices, and top with a dol­lop of sour cream and 1 Tbsp. of crum­bled cheese.

Chef Lucero

Soto

Serves 4

Prepa­ra­tion and cook­ing time: two hours, 20 min­utes, not in­clud­ing overnight soak­ing

7 oz. pinto beans, soaked overnight

3 cups wa­ter, to cook the beans

2 cloves gar­lic

2 Tbsp. onion, cut into large chunks

4 tsp. veg­etable oil, for oil­ing the pot

1 chicken breast with skin

½ cup onion, for the chicken broth, chopped ¼ cup cel­ery, chopped

¼ cup car­rot, chopped pinch of thyme pinch of mar­jo­ram

1 sprig ci­lantro, for chicken broth

4¼ cups wa­ter, for the chicken broth

3 large pasilla chili pep­pers

¼ white onion, chopped

1 Roma tomato, whole

2 tsp. veg­etable oil, for sautée­ing beans & broth salt, to taste

1 sprig ci­lantro, whole, for beans & broth 1 sprig epa­zote, whole (op­tional)

1 cup veg­etable oil, for fry­ing tor­tillas

3 corn tor­tillas, cut into strips avo­cado, sliced, to serve

½ cup sour cream, to serve scant ½ cup Cotija cheese (or feta)

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