Sunday, April 6, 2014

Welcome our guest, Connie Archer!

Connie Archer is the author of A Soup Lover's Mystery. Connie grew up in New England, ice skating on neighborhood ponds, clamming on the beach at Cape Cod, and skiing in Vermont. As a girl, she spent several years wading through Caesar’s Gallic War journals and the twelve books of the Aeneid. After majoring in biology in college, she did an about face and earned a degree in English literature. Since then she’s worked at many different jobs — laboratory technician, cocktail waitress, medical secretary, and dinner theatre actress, to name just a few. Connie lives in Los Angeles with her family and a cat named Basil.

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From Connie: A very special thank you to the authors of Mystery Lovers Kitchen for inviting me over today and giving me a chance to talk about my favorite soup.  Well . . . I have a lot of favorites, but frankly, there is one that has become an obsession – a holy grail of soup, if you will. 

There’s a small lunch place that I go to occasionally, mostly because they have great soups.  They rotate their choices on a daily basis, but one soup has become so popular, that it’s now offered every day of the week. 

That soup is my favorite and it’s become an obsession because I’ve been trying to re-create it at home for the past few years.  Have I come close?  Yes.  Close.  But not exactly the same.  Granted, I’ve come up with some soups that are almost the same, but not quite.  What is this fabulous soup, you may ask? 

Well, it’s called “Chicken Tortilla.”  I’ve ordered tortilla soup in other restaurants and discovered there are great differences.  And this one wouldn’t be considered an authentic Mexican tortilla soup, at least from what I’ve read, but I’m not overly concerned with authentic. 

This holy grail of soups, is a thick tomato-based soup with small bits of chicken, carrot and corn.  You’d think it would be easy to whip it up in the kitchen, wouldn’t you?  Here’s a picture of it. 

I get hungry just looking at it.  My lunch place serves it with cheddar cheese on top and a bag of little crunchy tortilla strips.  (I try to be good and forego the cheese --- ooops, sorry, Avery!) 

Recently, in complete frustration, I broke down and asked begged Albert at the counter for the recipe.  He and Arnold know me pretty well by now.  In fact, as soon as I walk in, they don’t even ask for my order.  My soup is waiting for me at the cash register. 

Albert shook his head. “No dice.” 

“Why?” I asked.

He leaned over the counter.  “I’ll tell you a secret.  It’s my favorite soup, too.” Sheepishly, he admitted he had asked the cook for the recipe and the cook refused him. 

“No!” I exclaimed. 

Albert nodded sadly.  “I told him I work for the company.  I don’t understand why he won’t share the recipe.” 

(See . . . I wasn’t crazy.  This IS a great soup!) 

So – here’s my latest attempt to re-create Chicken Tortilla Soup. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 tbl. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 cups chicken broth or chicken bouillon
1 chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 carrots, chopped very fine
1/2 cup corn (frozen or canned)
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbl. maple syrup or brown sugar
dash of cayenne pepper
3 tbls. cornstarch dissolved in small amount of water

Saute the garlic and onion in butter, add chicken broth to the pot.  Add chicken cubes, cumin, chopped carrots and corn and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the carrots are soft.  

Add crushed tomatoes, maple syrup (or brown sugar), cilantro, and dash of cayenne.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Then mix the cornstarch and water together until dissolved and add to the pot, turn up the heat and stir until the broth is thick. 

Serve with grated cheddar cheese and tortilla strips. 
Serves 4

If you’re inclined to try it yourself, I’d love to hear about it!  Enjoy!

Connie Archer is the author of A Spoonful of Murder (, A Broth of Betrayal ( and just released, A Roux of Revenge ( 

When a band of travelers arrives in the village of Snowflake, Vermont and a dead stranger is found by the side of the road, the past returns with a vengeance.  Long kept secrets will be revealed, lost loves will be found and the lives of many in the village will be irrevocably altered. 

You can visit Connie at
Twitter:  @SnowflakeVT


  1. I love chicken tortilla soup too Connie--will have to try your version. Congrats on the new book!!

    1. Thanks, Lucy! I'd love to hear how it turns out! I'm hungry just thinking about that soup.

  2. Umm, chicken tortilla soup. Will definitely be trying this one. Isn't it funny how hard it can be to recreate some recipes? My grandmother cooked "from her head" and not a book and even though we watched and copied and measured as she was cooking there are some things we still can't get quite right.

    Love the series - congrats on the new book!

    1. Thanks for stopping by today and I'm so glad to hear you love the goings on in the village! It is really hard to recreate something. I'm always convinced there's a secret ingredient I haven't been given.

  3. It sounds great, Connie! I'm wondering if he uses something other than cornstarch to thicken the soup? This chef is guarding his recipe closely! Not that I blame him if it's that popular!

    Thanks for joining us at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen today!


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Oops sorry! Major typo. I've wondered about that too, Krista. Maybe he uses rice in the tomato base to thicken the broth and then blends it because there isn't any of the goopiness that you sometimes get with cornstarch. I can see my quest is not over!

  4. My husband and I both like a strong, tomato-based soup. We also grew up with minestrone, so your tortilla soup sounds homey and familiar. Congratulations on your new release, and thank you for sharing.

    ~ Cleo

    1. Hi Cleo - thank you! I love minestrone too. Actually anything with tomatoes! Can't get enough.

  5. Connie, congrats on the new release! Tasty. And the soup looks lovely, too. My husband adores tortilla soup.

    Daryl / Avery

    1. Thanks, Daryl, and thanks for inviting me over today. I hope you get to try this recipe. Let me know how it turns out. And I'm certainly open to any embellishments too!

  6. I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't like tortilla soup, but my hubby does, so I'll make it for him! He loves the tortilla soup at Max & Erma's--I don't think theirs is tomato based. My favorite soup is the creamy tomato at Panera's. I've tried to duplicate it, but can't even come close. The potato soup at Eat 'n Park (a local Pittsburgh chain) is pretty darn good, too.

    Congrats on the new release!

    1. Hi Joyce! Okay, I'm very hungry now, those soups all sound wonderful! I've had different versions of this soup too at restaurants with a dark broth rather than tomato based. I've been told the broth is made from peppers rather than meat in the authentic versions, although I'm not sure about that. Would love to hear how this recipe turns out if you decide to try it!

  7. This sounds great! Here in south Florida we don't worry about "soup season". That's what air conditioning is for! Soup year 'round!
    This one goes on the To Be Tried list.

    1. Hi Libby! I live in a pretty warm climate too so I know what you mean. On the first cool day I pull out the soup pot though. And I love chilled soups too! Thanks for stopping by today.

  8. Have a preference for broth based chicken tortilla soup. Mostly served in Mexican food places in Texas. Have great recipe for that type. Chuy's has the best for me in all that I've tried. You can find Chuy's recipe at their website or at least it was there. Or google it. In trying new resturant, if tortilla soup is good, everything else is too!

    1. That's a great recommendation! And I'm sure your restaurant is a lot more authentic than my little soup place. I will definitely check out Chuy and try their recipe. Thanks for stopping by, Linda!

  9. The lovely Peg Cochran has a fantastic chicken tortilla soup. I even made it. Super easy and really really good. In fact, it's better than the one my favorite Mexican restaurant serves.