This is the soup my one-fourth Mexican mother used to make all the time, and for that reason alone, it is authentic to me. Yes, go to Mexico and you will have a pretty different soup, but this is the way she fed me as a child, and so it is how I make it today. It has a lot to do with using up leftovers.

If you don't have a sweet potato, a yellow or red potato will work fine, if that's what you have on hand. Potatoes came into the soup in the first place because of leftovers. As for the tomatoes, if they're not in season, try whole canned tomatoes, diced into smaller pieces. The building blocks for this dish are the chicken and chicken stock, lime, cilantro and tortilla; beyond that, you can experiment. Use the best stock possible — I like to use homemade.

Mexican Chicken Soup

Serves 4

1 medium sweet potato, cubed into bite-sized pieces (peeling optional)

3 tablespoons cooking oil

1/2 medium onion, sliced thin

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and black pepper

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup chopped tomatoes (cherry tomatoes sliced in half, or larger tomatoes cubed)

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (stems and leaves), plus more leaves for garnish

1 corn tortilla, cut in half, then in 1/4-inch strips

1/2 whole avocado, cubed

1/2 cup shredded jack cheese, optional

In a 3-quart pot or larger, bring 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and simmer, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife. Drain and set aside.

In a large stock pot over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil, add the onion and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, salt and pepper, and saute another minute.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the shredded chicken, tomatoes, lime juice, potatoes and cilantro. Turn off the heat and cover.

In a small skillet over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the tortilla strips and let them crisp, tossing around often, about 5 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with salt.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with cilantro leaves, cubed avocado, shredded cheese and a handful of tortilla strips.

Per serving: 378 calories; 21 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 50 percent calories from fat); 17 g carbohydrates; 6 g sugar; 73 mg cholesterol; 876 mg sodium; 30 g protein; 3 g fiber.

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