Smoke and Fire Culinary Throwdown: Smoky Tortilla Soup with Duck

Mutant chiles rock!

Darlings, I believe one of the best ways a person can further their culinary eduction is to constantly push yourself and try cooking things you've never cooked before. By my participation in my blogging buddies' cooking challenges, La Diva can get out of her comfort zone and hopefully discover something new.

The culinary throw-downs are competitive in a friendly way and they give me an excuse to get away from my usual meal-time stand-bys, whether it's a new recipe, unfamiliar ingredient or technique. Fellow cook and blogger Troll's latest culinary throw down challenge is SMOKE and FIRE and La Diva was ready to embrace the challenge!

Lately La Diva's been lovin' Rick Bayless's show "One Plate at a Time: Mexico City" on PBS and he has inspired me to try tackling more Latin/Mexican/Southwestern recipes and familiarizing myself with more of the myriad chili varieties available here. After excitedly poring through my new Gourmet Today cookbook, I came upon the perfect recipe:

Smoky Tortilla Soup with Duck

This recipe was challenging to La Diva not because it was difficult to prepare but because it was so time consuming and with many steps. Also, if you can believe it, I've never cooked duck before. I don't know why, it's not that I'm afraid of duck, not at all, but I just never really think about it when I'm planning my menus. In fact, I make a mean Thai red curry duck but have always taken a shortcut by simply using chopped roast duck bought from the Chinese barbeque!

And finally, because a Diva prefers to consume her calories from drinking massive amounts of wine, I don't often make very rich and fatty food. So, another step out of La Diva's comfort zone was to embrace a dish using a heck of a lot of rendered duck fat!

Taking the skin off two duck legs, I fried the duck skin in its own fat into nice, crispy duck chicharonnes. I then fried the tortilla strips in the duck fat. Also, the tomato/onion/pasilla/chipotle/cilantro spice blend used to give the soup it's smoky, earthy flavor was reduced after sauteing with, yep, you guessed it, even more duck fat!! With the addition of fried tortilla strips to thicken the broth as well as used as garnish along with sliced avocados, LOW FAT this soup is not!

Smoky Tortilla soup with Duck with fresh lime, avocado, cilantro, duck chicharonnes and duck-fat fried tortilla strips!

The soup, though a lengthy process to make, was delicious. You get SMOKE from the chipotle chile (which is a smoke-dried jalapeno chile) and you get FIRE from the heat of the chile itself! (the heat was actually quite mild) Adding a handful of crushed fried tortilla strips to the broth as it cooked thickened it up and really gave the soup texture. I loved the taste of the duck, this would be a great soup for a cold OR hot day!

Well, I certainly did challenge myself but the true question is: Would I make this again? Yes. But, when it comes to fat, La Diva is a bit like Jack Sprat and will cut meat off a steak before eating a bit of fat so I think next time I would omit the chicharonnes and perhaps not cook the tortilla strips in the duck fat! DECADENT AND RICH AND OH SO TASTY, I think Rick Bayless would be proud!

(On a side note, the tomato chile sauce was SO DELICIOSO that I think I might just use it as a smoky salsa in itself! I'll post the recipe later!)

La Diva didn't have the luxury of her fave photographer DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah!) and had to take the photos herself! Still, you can click on the photo to see the richness of the broth!

Take a gander at what everyone else made for the throw-down. Click HERE and then go to the comments section and click on the blogger that says "I'm up!" If YOU would like to participate in the next Culinary Throwdown or Dim Sum Sunday challenges, Email La Diva and I'll give you all the details!

LA DIVA WON!!!! YAY! MY FIRST WIN! And I even get to "sport" the Culinary LOGO! Woo hoo! Go to Judge Moi's site to read about the challenge entries and her witty post!

Adiós queridos!

Here's the recipe for the smoky salsa. If you want to try making the soup, add this to the duck fat and simmer until reduced to 2 1/4 cups for 10 min. (from 3 1/2 cups sauce) and then add to the stock. Stock: add to 4 cups chicken stock and 4 cups water and simmer with seared duck legs for two hours or until the meat falls off the bone.

Smoky salsa:

1 dried pasilla or mulato chile
1 dried pasilla de Ozxaca chile or chipotle more or 1 canne chipotle chile in adobo
1 14-15 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 c packed fresh cilantro sprigs
2 large garlic cloves
1 whole clove or pinch of ground cloves
5 whole allspice or 1/4 t ground allspice
1 3/4 t salt

Heat a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat until hot. Cut dried chiles open lengthwise and open out flat. (if chiles are too brittle to open, toast whole chiles for afew seconds on each side, pressing down with tongs, to soften slightly, and then cut open); discard seeds and stems. Toast chiles in hot skillet, pressing down with tongs, turning once, until color changes slightly and chiles are more fragrant, 10-15 seconds. (If using a canned chipotle, simply discard seeds, do not toast!) Transfer dried chiles to blender, add 1 cup water and let soak for at least 20 minutes (without blending) add canned chipotle if using.

After chiles have softened, add to blender: tomatoes with juice, onion, cilantro, garlic, salt, clove and allspice to chiles and blend until smooth. You will have 3 1/2 cups salsa.

Damn tasty but a lot of it. I think it would be good to eat some as is and then use the rest over eggs or spooned over chicken and baked with cheese and served with rice.

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TROLL Y2K said...

Sensational dish and a LOT of work to get it that way. If I were judging, I'd mark you down 5% for being late but you'd STILL win.

That future smoky salsa sounds good too and less work.

LaDivaCucina said...

Thanks so much Troll!

I had every intention of making this soup on Sunday but hubby had to work and I was tired from my class the day before and thought, why cook today? hehe....La Diva took a well-deserved day off!

Last night it was almost done and then I noticed the recipe said: let cool, skim off fat!! So, I did and I'm glad, it would have been really rich if I wouldn't have taken the fat off.

Big Shamu said...

I see La Diva want me to spend 4 hours a day on the Wii Fit just so I can have a bowl of that bad boy. But who can say no to Duck Fat? Not me, that's for sure.

LaDivaCucina said...

Shamu, I just KNEW you would likes this....Don't worry I've just started to work out too and won't be making this dish again for a loooooong time!!!

Jill said...

Looks incredible...I can almost smell it, taste it...I can feel the heat! Good excuse to open a bottle of wine, right?! I'm off!

moi said...

Wait a minute, Troll, I thought YOU were judging? You won last time so that makes you el judgerino. Unless you don't want to, in which case I'll do it. Let me know.

La Diva, this is a spectacular dish! Mmmmmmm, I say:

Pork fat
Duck fat
Butter fat

Beef fat?
I'm down with that.
In fact, it's a dream.
The only yucky fat?
Is chicken fat
That's just dis-gust-ing!

LaDivaCucina said...

Hey Jill, what kind of wine would you recommend with a dish like this? It's not over the top spicy and smoky...wish I was better at wine pairings!

MOI! There is trouble amongst the was waitin on Troll, he was waitin on you!

Lurve your liddle poem and how it rhymes until the end. I agree about chicken fat, only good for making schmaltz. I can just barely, BARELY eat the duck fat though.....

Sandcastle Momma said...

That looks delicious. I've never cooked duck before but you make it sound so simple I think I'll give this recipe a try.

Aunty Belle said...

Uh, yeah.


I ain't the jedge, but fer mah money honey, this heah is THE WINNER. Mercy but it soudns good --AN' ya made it yoreself AN' ph0tographed it?

W I N N E R!

As to fats...the WORST is lamb fat. I likes the taste of prok fat, beef, fat, duck fat...chicken ah, not so much...but lamb?? gag.

I love lamb, but I tell the butcher to remove ALL the fat offa that leg o'lamb.

Wow, Diva, this recipie an' yore effort is impressive.

Boxer said...

Only YOU could combine food and music so beautifully. I don't even eat meat and I get how wonderful this is. NICELY done.

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Sandcastle Mama, thanks for coming by! I got the recipe from the new Gourmet Today cook book, it wasn't difficult just a process.

Thanks Aunty and Boxer!!! Wow! I ended up having a nice red blend of cabernet shiraz with the soup, very nice. The soup was even better for dinner the next day, very flavorful.

Aunty, I know what you mean about lamb fat. But one thing that is good about cooking lamb is that if you cook it long enough, the fat melts and the lamb is sooo tender. Leg of lamb is a favorite in our house!

Thanks for the compliments, you blogging buds are SO encouraging!!

Buzz Kill said...

Although I don't really see this is a competition, I'm with Aunty in saying, "YOU WIN". Huge effort and I love fried tortillas. I can only imagine what they taste like in duck fat. Nice presentation. I would pair it with a Corona.

moi said...

Dahlink, I am UP with the Winner on my Blob!

fishy said...

La Diva,
Bravo! on a thowdown well executed, well photographed and double stars for the entertainment factor of the post itself!

LaDivaCucina said...

Hey Buzzy and Fishy, thanks so much for stopping by and the sweet comments. I love beer with hot food, Yep, Corona would have been lovely!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

holy shizz - that looks amazing! leave it to the professional to put everyone to shame. Nicely done!

Jill said...

Just saw your question. I think a Rose' might be nice...

LaDivaCucina said...

Thanks Jill! ANd you too Pirate, thanks for stopping by!