Friday, October 8, 2010

A tribute...

This happens to me all the time: I go to the store in search of a product that I fell in love with, only to find that it has been discontinued. I’ve started buying triplicates of certain products, knowing that the next time I look for it, it will probably be gone. When this happens with toiletries or food items, there are always other options. After grumbling and searching, you can find something comparable. But when a restaurant closes, there is no recourse...

I’d never been to Compadres Mexican Bar and Grill before I met Andy. The first time he took me, we had margaritas at the bar. Happy hour was indeed happy, with $1 margaritas before 4pm. He told me that their tortilla soup was the best he’d ever had, and it was pretty much all he ever ordered. The next time we went, I took his advice and ordered it. I was hooked. I don’t think I ever tried anything else. Even on the hottest days, we would go sit on the patio with our margaritas and have a bowl of hot soup. The first thing we did upon getting home from a ten-day trip to Tahiti, where Mexican food was non-existent, was go to Compadres for the soup. I think I’ve made my point…we loved that soup.

So imagine our horror when one day two years ago, they closed their doors. Just like that, our tortilla soup was gone. I searched high and low online to try to find the recipe, or at least a copycat version, but there was nothing. Tortilla soups run the gamut…some are tomato based, some are chicken broth based. All have varying ingredients, and all claim to be authentic.

This is my recreation of Compadres tortilla soup:

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Makes 4 large servings 

8 corn tortillas
vegetable oil for frying

1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano pepper, small diced
1/2 -1 jalapeno pepper, small diced
2 stalks celery, diced

5 14 ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can Mexican recipe sliced tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken*
1 tablespoon cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon epazote (optional) 
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Monterey Jack cheese

For tortilla strips:
Cut tortillas into 1/2” strips. Fry in vegetable oil untilcrispy. Salt and set aside.

For soup:
In a large dutch oven, sauté onion, garlic, poblano, jalapeno, and celery in vegetable oil until soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes, chicken, cilantro, and spices and bring to a simmer. Check seasonings; add salt and pepper as needed. Let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve with tortilla strips, cheese and fresh cilantro.

*Shortcut: I use the pre-cooked rotisserie chickens for this. (Just make sure it isn’t seasoned with any unusual flavors.)

To us, what makes this soup so good is the combination of the melted cheese, the crunchy, salty tortilla strips, and the homey, cozy chicken broth. It is our version of a comforting chicken noodle soup.

Andy still talks about the first time I made this soup. He just couldn’t believe it. I knew I had hit the mark when he took his first bite and his eyes got wide. The recipe has morphed a little since that first time…it’s a little spicier, and a little more flavorful, but the essence is still the same. And every time we have it, we think about Compadres and wish we could pop over for happy hour.

I guess I’ve got to get around to replicating their margaritas, too…


  1. This tortilla soup looks fantastic. Let me know how those margaritas turn out...

  2. I love tortilla soup - this looks amazing. I am so with you as to the withdrawals when restaurants close! Thanks for stopping by my Portabella Alfredo post today.

  3. That looks like a really delicious soup!

  4. Fabulous! I've got leftover chicken to use up this weekend! This will be So delicious! Thanks!

  5. Thank you, thank you! I love tortilla soup and I finally found a recipe that will satisfy us.
    Looks good,

  6. The soup looks great! i can't wait to try it with tacos and margaritas!

  7. Love your recipe! This soup looks awesome but it's Friday evening and I'm having a hard time getting my mind off those $1 Magaritas you speak of!

    Sad your place closed but now you brought "the soup" home!!!!!

    Now do I have any tequila????

  8. That is one fantastic looking soup! Such a shame that your favourite restaurant closed down. I hate it when things like that happened but luckily you are creative enough to make the beautiful soup yourself! Yes, I am with the others and can't wait for the Margaritas now ;)

  9. That is seriously good looking soup :-)

  10. Gosh I hate it when products/meals get changed or discontinued. Great soup though!

  11. It is awful when a favourite restaurant closes, but it looks like you've done a great job recreating the recipe. I love tortilla soup, but I don't think I've ever made it. This might just be the incentive I need...
    Oh and that apple dessert below? Fantastic!

  12. mmmm...more delicious soup! the recipe sounds amazing!

  13. I have yet to find the perfect Tortilla Soup recipe, always searching and trying recipes, this is a contender!

  14. Our favourite local restaurant closed down about 5 years ago ... we still haven't managed to replace it .... having fun trying though!!

    That soup sounds delightful.

  15. This looks very inviting. I love this kind of soup. Love all the spices. A good way to use up leftover chicken. Thanks very much for sharing.

  16. I am sorry you lost your favorite place. I know it happened to me last winter. I think you did a great job recreating the soup. It looks delicious.

  17. I know how you feel when a product is removed or changed. Trader Joe's does that all the time.
    Anyway, we eat a lot of soup, and this one looks likes a winner.

  18. I hate when you finally find a great restaurant and it shuts down. This looks like a delicious tortilla soup and I have been looking for a good recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Delicious flavourings.Beats ordinary chicken soup anyday! My flu hasn't quite left- sounds like the sort of zingy soup that may help...

  20. I have heard and read about this soup in several blogs, I think I really should give it a try now. The ingredients sound great!

  21. Ugh, sorry one of your favourite restaurants closed. But it looks like you managed to recreate your favourite dish almost perfectly! I love a good chicken tortilla soup.

  22. I have never made any tortilla soup before...this looks like a delicious recipe to start with!

  23.'s absolutely one of the most beautiful bowls of soup I've ever seen. You do know my affinity for Tortilla Soup, yes?? I really hope you'll link it up to my quest!! Delicious :D

  24. oooh, this looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing your creation with us!

  25. Looks wonderful...I know it is so sad when our favorite things/places go away :( Amazing recreation of a favorite here, looks really delicious :)

  26. Fantastic soup. Big bold flavors. Bravo!

  27. Wow! Now I'm the one that's calling a Mulligan... :D This looks so much better than my version. Great recipe!

  28. I know exactly how you feel. One of my favorite restaurants here in Denver up and closed their doors. I felt stunned. Best fish tacos EVER. I'm going to save this recipe, I still don't think I've had the best Tortilla Soup. They're all good, but looking for that "wow". I agree with the rotisserie chickens, they do seem to make soups better.