Tortilla Soup with Pork Meatballs, Tortillas and Cheddar

Serves 6

Stock:

10 cups chicken stock

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

6 sprigs fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon each ground dried Anaheim, pasilla and ancho chilies

1/4 teaspoon pimenton or smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

1/2 jalapeño, halved and seeded

Soup:

1 egg

1/4 cup whole milk

3 slices white bread, minced in a food processor (about 2 cups)

1 pound ground pork

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Large pinch cayenne

Kosher salt, black pepper

Vegetable oil

1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large carrots, in 1/2-inch dice

Kernels from 2 ears corn

3 zucchini, in 1/2-inch dice

Garnishes:

Corn oil, for frying

8 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch strips

4 ounces sharp cheddar, coarsely grated

1 large avocado, diced

1. Place stock ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk egg and milk. Add breadcrumbs, and mix to moisten. Discard any excess liquid.

3. Mix in pork, oregano and cayenne. Season with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Test for flavor by frying a small patty until golden and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Form the mixture into 1/2-inch meatballs, and place 1 inch apart on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

4. Strain stock, discarding any solids. Return stock to pot; add meatballs, green beans and carrots. Cook until vegetables are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add corn and zucchini. Simmer 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 inch of corn oil in a deep, heavy pan to 375 degrees. Add tortilla strips; cook until crispy, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels.

6. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cheddar and avocado. Top with tortilla strips and cilantro leaves.

-- Joanne Weir, "Cooking Confidence: Dinner Made Simple" (Taunton Press, $24.95, 256 pages)