1dried ancho chile, seeded and stemmed, or 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1/2medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
1jalapeño, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
6corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
Oil, for frying
1avocado, peeled and diced, for serving
Crumbled queso fresco or Cotija cheese, for serving
Cilantro leaves, for serving
To make the chicken and broth, place the chicken in a large pot, along with the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, allspice, jalapeño, cilantro, and bay leaf. Cover with water, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the soup, in a dry skillet heated on high, toast the ancho chile for about 10 seconds or just until it starts to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover chile. Leave the heat on until the water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chile soak until soft, about 30 minutes. (If using ancho chile powder, you can skip this step).
As the chile soaks, turn on the broiler and place a rack 6 inches from the heating element. Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and jalapeño in a cast-iron skillet and cook for 10 minutes or until everything is starting to blacken. Remove the garlic and place in it a blender. Flip over the onion and jalapeño (leaving the tomatoes as they are), and return the skillet to the oven. Cook for 10 more minutes then remove the skillet from the oven.
Place the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cumin, oregano, epazote, salt, and allspice in the blender with the garlic. Pour 1/4 cup of water in the skillet and while scraping the bottom swirl the water then pour into the blender.
After the ancho chile has softened, rinse it then place it in the blender. (If using the ancho chile powder, add this instead). Puree the roasted tomatos, aromatics, and chiles until smooth. (Add more water if necessary.)
When the broth is done, remove the chicken from the pot and turn off the heat. After the chicken has cooled, remove the skin, pick the meat off the bones, and either shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle the chicken with the lime juice and add salt to taste.
Meanwhile, strain the cooled broth throwing out the vegetables. Rinse out the pot then pour back in 8 cups of the broth, reserving for another use any left over.
Pour the roasted tomato and chile puree from the blender into the pot with the chicken broth, then stir until both are well combined. Simmer on low until warm and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken, then taste and adjust seasonings.
While the soup is simmering, make the fried tortilla strips. Heat in a heavy skillet 1/4 inch of vegetable oil to 350°F. In batches, fry the tortilla strips until lightly browned and crisp, about a minute. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel and lightly sprinkle with salt.
To serve, pour the soup into bowls and top with the fried tortilla strips, avocado, cheese, and cilantro.
While this soup will have more depth if you make it all from scratch, I realize not everyone has that luxury of time. Most of the soup’s flavor comes from the roasted tomato and chile puree, so don’t skimp on that; the puree can, however, be made a couple of days ahead of time. You can then blend the puree with 3 cups shredded cooked chicken and 2 quarts prepared chicken broth for a quick and delicious meal. You could even use crumbled tortilla chips, though I do find the freshly fried corn tortilla strips are more sturdy as well as flavorful.