Tortilla Stew

I made this stew on Sunday night when we wanted something warm and nourishing after a long day of travel.  What was great is that the ingredients were miraculously already in our pantry and fridge, so it was super easy to throw together. I'm a huge advocate of a well stocked pantry - give me an onion, broth, beans, and spices, and I can usually come up with dinner using those and whatever vegetables are in the crisper.  

This dish was inspired by classic tortilla soup, but is much thicker due to the addition of cornmeal towards the end of cooking.  I really like the texture and subtle sweetness the cornmeal adds.  It was perfect for decompressing on the couch while watching 60 Minutes (a Sunday tradition), but would also be great for a football party as a twist on chili - have a big pot of stew simmering on the stove and then line up bowls and a toppings bar nearby.   

Tortilla Stew

Serves 4

6 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4"-1/2" strips

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1-2 poblano peppers, finely diced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 Tbs. cornmeal

Avocado slices
Diced red onion
Lime wedges
Greek yogurt
Hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread tortilla strips in a single layer onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 5-10 minutes until crisp, but not brown.  If your pan is crowded, use two sheets or toast in batches.  Set aside. 

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil to medium-high and add onion, bell pepper, and poblano pepper.  Season with a generous pinch of salt.  Sautée until onion is translucent and pepper start to soften, about 3-5 minutes.  Add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and evenly mixed among the vegetables.  Next add tomatoes, black beans, vegetable broth, water, and another generous pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer so that the flavors can combine, 20 minutes.  Next, gently sprinkle in the cornmeal - stirring constantly to avoid clumps, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.  The cornmeal thickens the stew and contributes to a nice consistency. 

When ready to serve, place 5-6 tortilla strips in the bottom of a bowl and top with the stew. Finish with more tortilla strips and the garnishes of your choice.