Mike’s Mesquite-Grilled Chicken Tortilla Soup

Mike's Mesquite-Grilled Chicken Tortilla Soup | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is my original version of a Mexican classic, with a bit of southwest flair infused by New Mexican Hatch chili powder and mesquite wood smoke. As a shortcut, you can fry the chicken in a pan or just boil it before shredding, but why would you want to? Taking the extra time by preparing it on the grill adds an entirely new dimension to this satisfying dish. On a related note, blackening or charring the tomatoes, tomatillos and poblano pepper is essential for the depth of flavor needed — do not skip this step.

I absolutely love this recipe! I hope you do too.


For the Chicken Marinade~
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 large cloves garlic, crushed then minced
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1/2 cup XV olive oil
1 tsp. ground coriander
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

For the Tortilla Soup~
4 tbs. XV olive oil
32 oz. chicken broth
1 tsp. dry chicken base
4 large cloves crush garlic, minced
2 tbs. pure mild New Mexican Hatch red chili powder
1 tsp. ground Mexican oregano
1 tbs. chipotle en adobo sauce
1 tbs. ground cumin, preferably from toasted seed
4 medium tomatoes, charred (2 10-oz. cans Rotel® fired diced tomatoes may be used as a substitute)
2 large tomatillos, charred and cored
1 large poblano chili, charred and diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 charred six-inch corn tortillas (preferably home-made) cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 14.5 oz. can black beans
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

Garnish With~
2 charred six-inch corn tortillas (preferably home-made) cut into 1/4″ strips
2 Haas avocados, cut in 1/2″ strips
Mike’s Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema
Chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
Thinly-sliced red onion or green scallion
Shredded Mexican Cotija cheese (Nuestro Queso is an excellent brand)

You’ll also need mesquite wood chips for the grill; about 3/4 cup



The night before, prepare the chicken marinade so the flavor has time to set up. Pound the chicken breasts flat by using a spiked meat mallet. This will ensure that they cook evenly on the grill and allow the wood smoke to penetrate the meat. Place them in a ziplock storage bag. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour in with the chicken. Seal tightly and double bag it using another plastic storage bag to prevent leaks. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

The next day, prepare an outdoor charcoal fire on a kettle grill. Use real lump charcoal, not briquettes. Prior to lighting the fire, soak a handful of mesquite chips in a bowl of water for about two hours. You only need a little as the flavor from the mesquite smoke is very intense. Place the soaked chips directly on the white-hot coals.

Grill the chicken over direct heat for about four minutes per side, ensuring that they have a nice crusty char on each side. Remove and let cool on a plate. You need not be concerned if they are a bit underdone. They will continue to cook in the pot in the next step.

While the chicken is cooling, heat a 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until soft taking care not to scorch the garlic.  Dice the charred tomatoes and tomatillos and add to the pot. Increase the heat to medium, and stir occasionally for another 5 minutes.

Next, add the chicken broth, the New Mexican Hatch chili powder, chicken base, chipotle adobo sauce, Mexican oregano, salt and pepper. Increase the heat and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the soup is simmering, cut up the charred tortillas and add them to the pot.

Carefully transfer this mixture to a blender and pulse until smooth. Return the ingredients to the pot.

Prepare the poblano pepper by charring it with a propane torch or stovetop gas burner. Dice and add to the pot. Using two forks, shred the chicken and add to the pot.

Drain the canned black beans and rinse in a colander with hot water. Simmer them in the soup for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve with the garnish ingredients indicated. Leftovers freeze wonderfully.

Serves 4-6


Note: Use extreme caution if using a propane torch indoors.  I would highly recommend using a cast-iron pan on your stovetop as a makeshift heat-shield.

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Salsa Arriero con Ajo (Mule Driver’s Salsa with Garlic)

Salsa Arriero con Ajo (Mule Driver's Salsa with Garlic)

Grilling the serrano peppers, onion and garlic over hardwood charcoal in a griling grate.

This is a traditional Mexican salsa recipe that can be quite spicy. You can blister the serrano chilis and onion on a cast-iron comal or fire them over wood coals. Honestly, for me, it’s much easier to use a dedicated grill basket over charcoal. The salsa is traditionally ground by hand in a molcajete – a handcrafted lava-rock bowl consisting of a mortar and pestle, but you can also use a food processor with a pulse blade. Serve on fresh-toasted tortillas with shredded Queso Fresco or Monterey Jack cheese.


20 fresh serrano peppers, washed and stemmed
1 small white onion, quartered
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
a few tablespoons water, if needed
XV Olive oil
Shredded Queso Fresco or Monterey Jack cheese


Wash and stem the serrano peppers. Peel and quarter the onion. Peel the garlic cloves. Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill with enough hardwood coal for a small fire. When white-hot, place the grill pan over the coals and add the peppers, onion and garlic. Sear and let blacken for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, place in a food processor and pulse until rough-choppeed.  Add the cilantro and Kosher salt to taste. Add a small amount of water if needed. Stir well and let stand to incorporate.

Using a comal or cast-iron pan, heat the tortillas on medium with a bit of olive oil until lightly browned. Flip occasionally to ensure they don’t burn. Remove from heat and cut into quarters. Place the salsa and cheese on a quarter tortilla. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-8.
Heat Level: 7

Arizona Baked Corn Dip

Arizona Baked Corn Dip | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a great recipe that keeps well when reheated the second day. The green chili and jalapeño add just the right amount of zip for even the pickiest guests.

And now for my helpful tip: Being the chef who actually made this stunning appetizer, you have first dibs. Strategically grab a ginormous serving spoon — or better yet, a gravy ladle. Cut to the front of the line, load up a plate and don’t worry about embarrassing yourself — you’re going to be eating that much anyway, so you might as well beat everyone else to it. Trust me, they’ll respect you for it.



1 can, 15-1/4 oz. whole kernel corn – drained
2 cans, 4 oz. each, chopped green chilis, drained
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbs fresh chopped jalapeño pepper
1 cup mayo (please do this dish justice and don’t go with the low-fat version)
1/2 cup grated Mexican Cotija cheese (Nuestro Queso is an excellent brand) or hard Parmesan
1 4 oz. can sliced black olives, drained

Snack tortilla chips or crackers



Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a bowl, combine the corn, chilis, red pepper, Monterey Jack cheese and fresh jalapeño. Stir in the mayo and grated Cotija or Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Transfer to an ungreased 2-qt. square baking dish and level with a spatula. Sprinkle the black olives on top. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until heated through, slightly brown and bubbly, with most of the liquid cooked off. Remove from the oven and let stand for ten minutes to set before serving.

Serve hot with tortilla chips or party crackers.

Serves 6-8.

Taos Tortilla Soup

A regional southwest favorite that never fails to satisfy.


8 corn tortillas
1/4 cup corn oil
1 tbs. butter
1/2 medium Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, mashed
4 oz. Hatch green chili, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 28 oz. can tomatoes
1 tbs. chopped washed cilantro leaves
1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
8 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese


Cut the corn tortillas into strips and leave out to dry overnight.

Heat the corn oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Fry the tortilla strips until golden brown, and drain on a paper towel.

Next, heat the butter in the skillet and saute the onion and garlic. Heat a cast-iron dutch oven to medium and add the chicken stock, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cilantro, oregano and salt. Add the shredded chicken and warm through on a low simmer for about 10 minutes.

Serve over the tortilla strips in bowls. Top with the Jack cheese.

Serves 4.

Hickory-Smoked Tuna Quesadillas

OK, so this recipe isn’t gourmet, it barely belongs in a seafood section, and it was found on the back of a package of Starkist Tuna — I don’t care. It rocks.

Starkist made the smart move to offer their products in convenient tear-off pouches. No can opener, no draining and no fuss. This is a great snack to serve at half-time.


1 pouch Starkist Hickory-Smoked Tuna
1-1/2 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup Colby-Jack shredded cheese
1/8 cup roasted red bell pepper strips
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 flour tortillas
drizzle of olive oil


In a medium bowl, mix tuna, cream cheese, shredded cheese, peppers and onions. Spread on one side of a tortilla shell to the edge. Top with the other shell.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and cook the quesadilla until slightly toasted on each side. Ensure that the cheese is evenly melted. Place on a serving tray and cut into eight wedges.

Serves 2-4.