"Texas is neither southern nor western. Texas is Texas."
~Senator William BlakleyThis just in from San Antonio... Tortilla Soup is alive and well and seemingly everywhere. We could perhaps change its name to Ubiquitous. And that is okay with me because I enjoy any good bowl of spicy soup that is finished with a smattering of fresh garnishes. As proof of my adoration, I can confirm that I was in town for a full two days and both days I ordered Tortilla Soup for lunch. I almost ordered it for dinner one night but the room was just too hot and humid.
A quick inquiry of a water taxi captain yielded a recommendation to dine at Boudro's. The place was slammed, but as luck will have it - as Linda likes to say, "everything works out for me" - we snagged a table for two on the outdoor patio. Gary quite gallantly offered me the view to the river and the multitudes of people passing by.
We crossed the street, passing by the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. I snarled at it for good measure, channeling my inner Jim Bowie. Really, it just seemed so out of place among the glory of the historic buildings. Once again, we descended a flight of stairs to the Riverwalk taking in the relative calm after the bustle of the previous night. A few joggers passed us by. Coffee carrying people walked like they meant it, each apparently in route to an important destination.
Small barges docked along the river, their crews digging holes for new plants and cleaning the sidewalks with water, making the surface a little slippery. We wondered if it was river water and agreed that falling and scratching a limb could ultimately lead to a round of antibiotics. Turning our minds to happier thoughts, we smiled at ducklings chasing after their mother as we walked gingerly down the path. Birds swooped for crumbs. As we passed under bridges, the city hummed with activity above us in sharp opposition to the tranquility along the river.
On our way back to the hotel, we caught sight of a majestic church and detoured to take a closer look. We discovered San Fernando Cathedral where the Alamo heroes are entombed in a small chapel. The doors were open. We payed our respects in front of the single marble casket. The inevitable conclusion, after a brief discussion, is that the heroes were cremated - together during the siege and forevermore.
Everyone agreed on Mexican food. We made a beeline for Casa Rio, established in 1946 and was the first restaurant on the Riverwalk. It was a Wednesday night and the place was packed with the young and the old, tourists, lovebirds, exhibitors, and locals. It was late, and I wasn't up for a big plate of fried enchiladas or tacos, so I opted for the acceptable, but uninspired Pollo Asado plate: boneless chicken breast in red sauce with pinto beans, salad and pico de gallo. The price was right though.
On the last night, we headed to a churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse chain called Fogo de Chão. They offer fifteen cuts of meat - yep, that's right 15 - cooked on rotisserie forks. Everyone starts off his or her meal with a trip to the gourmet salad and sides bar that includes over 30 items. Think of it as the largest antipasto tray in the world. Once you are ready for the meat fest to begin, you simply flip a card placed by each guests water glass. It looks like a beer coaster. One side is green and the reverse is red. It works like a traffic light. As long as the card is flipped to green, roaming "gaucho chefs" slice and serve the meats table-side. When you need a little break, flip the card to red.
After a long day in the booth (my feet incessantly throbbing while I talked to business advisors from across the country) I opted to start the evening with a traditional Brazilian cocktail, the caipirinha. The fresh lime based drink is definitely in the same vein of a margarita, but in lieu of tequila the liquor is cachaça, pronounced "ka-sha-sa" and is made from fermented sugarcane. I liked it a lot, but if I make it at home, I will mix it a tad dryer as it was a little on the sweet side for my taste.
I can usually find all the ingredients in my pantry to make this soup in a jiffy. If Bon Appetit magazine asked me what three things I always have in my refrigerator, my reply would be chicken, Tillamook cheddar cheese and sour cream. And tortilla chips, and salsa, and garlic, and...
In a blender:
1 28-ounce can Muir Glen® Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
In a soup pot:
1 14.5-ounce can Muir Glen® Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 32-ounce container chicken broth
3 to 4 cups leftover cooked chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large pinch cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
sea salt (about 1/2 tsp) and black pepper freshly ground, to taste
1 to 2 Tbsps sugar, if needed to round out the flavors
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 lemons or 4 limes, freshly squeezed (about 1/2 cup)
fresh cilantro leaves, stems discarded
sliced scallions, white and green rings
shredded cheese: Cheddar, Monterey Jack or a combination
1. Empty a 28-ounce can of tomatoes into a blender. Add the garlic and tomato puree. Blend until smooth. Pour into a soup pot. Add the roasted tomatoes with green chiles and chicken broth. Stir. Add chicken. Bring to a boil over medium heat until; turn temperature to low and simmer until ready to serve. Add sugar, if needed. You can also add leftover cooked rice and frozen corn for a Mexico City Tortilla Soup.
2. Right before serving, stir in parsley and the lemon juice.
3. Serve the soup in bowls leaving room for your guests to garnish as they please with sour cream, corn chips, shredded cheese, sliced scallions (white and green), diced avocado and leaves of cilantro.
"A closed mouth gathers no foot." ~Texas wisdom