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Mexican Tortilla Chili

 Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

Similar to tortilla soup, this spicy veggie chili is delicious. It is made in the Mexican style, whereby the vegetables are grilled prior to being added to the soup-the grilled veggies have deeper, mellower flavors than their raw counterparts. The soup is made in two parts: the flavorful broth is prepared first and then poured over the vegetables.

If you wish to make this a vegetarian dish, simply substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

For the chili broth:

8 large tomatoes, stemmed

2 large Spanish onions, peeled and halved

6 large Mexican garlic cloves, peeled (see note)

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth (canned is fine)

1 teaspoon chipotle powder, or 2 dried chipotles, reconstituted (see note)

1 piece (2 inches) cinnamon, preferably canela (see sources)

Salt (optional)

For the chili vegetables:

2 pounds butternut squash (1 medium squash), peeled, seeded, and cubed

1 teaspoon ground dried Mexican oregano

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), with liquid

1 small bunch Swiss chard, stemmed, sliced into 1-inch-wide ribbons (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

For serving:

1 lime

Corn tortillas, warmed (optional)

   1. Prepare the broth: Score an X into the bottom of each tomato, cutting just through the skin. Place the tomatoes, onions, and garlic on a comal or other heavy griddle over medium-high heat and cook, turning, until the vegetables char on all sides, about 10 minutes. (Remove the garlic as soon as it browns a bit.) Transfer the vegetables to a plate and set them aside.

    2.   Place the chicken broth in a large Dutch oven or small stockpot over high heat. Add the chipotle powder and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 5 minutes.

    3. Meanwhile, peel and chop the tomatoes. Chop the onions, removing any blackened spots and mince the garlic.

    4. Add the tomatoes, onions, and garlic to the broth, along with the canela. Simmer to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.  Remove the canela, taste the broth, and adjust the seasonings as needed, adding salt if desired. Keep warm.

    5. Prepare the chili vegetables: Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the squash and oregano, cover the pan, and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the black beans, garbanzo beans, chard, and cumin and cook, uncovered, until the chard is limp and tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables, reserving the cooking water.

    6. Cut the lime into quarters or sixths, depending on the number of servings. Squeeze a wedge of lime into the bottom of each individual bowl. Divide the vegetables among the bowls, and ladle the broth over them, coving the vegetables. (If the broth has become too stewlike, use the reserved vegetable cooking liquid to thin it to a soupier consistency.) Serve with warm corn tortillas, if desired.

Notes: Before using dried chipotles, you must reconstitute them. To do so on the stovetop, place them in a small pot and add a dash of vinegar and water to just cover. Simmer them over low heat until soft, 30 minutes. Alternatively, place the chipotles, vinegar, and water in a quart size microwave-safe liquid measuring cup, cover with cellophane wrap and process 5 minutes.

When the chiles are fork-tender, discard the water (or reserve it for later use in marinades and salad dressings) and mince the chiles.

I’ve called for Mexican garlic here because it has a complex flavor and its large cloves are easy to peel.

This recipe reprinted with permission from Jane Butel's Chili Madness, 2nd edition.

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