Several years ago, I got it into my head that I needed to make tortilla soup, and by needing, I mean NEEDING. I wanted Islands’ recipe, which I found online, and I mixed in a few others to round it out. (That’s pretty much how I cook. I look for 3 or 4 recipes for the same thing and take bits and pieces.)
The recipe I found called for chipotle peppers. It said a can of them. I swear to god it did. Being in San Diego, means I can buy real Mexican ingredients. No El Paso Salsa in my house. I go for the real deal. The real deal is missing one thing that you get on Americanized Mexican food, there is no heat scale on the jar/can.
My nickname in the family is leather mouth, because I love spicy food. I also eat enough Mexican to assume that I’d be just fine, and I never found chipotle to be terribly hot so I dumped in the entire can.
Then an hour or so later, I tasted it. I might’ve melted taste buds. Pretty sure my lips lost layers of flesh. It was insanely hot. Being my father’s daughter, I made the executive decision that I’d paid for all these ingredients, and god dammit, I AM GOING TO EAT THIS SOUP! So I fished out all the chipotle peppers and ran them down the garbage disposal. I then tore up 30 tortillas to curtail some of the heat.
The flavor was amazing. It was still hotter than hell. My sister couldn’t eat it, and her mom eats habaneros for fun! (My roommate/sister and I adopted each other in college, which is why we have different parents.) Her mom picks ghost peppers off the bush and munches on them in the garden—seeds and all!
I should’ve thrown it away, but I just couldn’t do it. I could not waste the money. My dad was Scottish/Jewish. ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without’ was his favorite saying. His next was ‘hotter than a two-peckered puppy dog’ which didn’t make sense to me until I was much older.
My sister’s mom laughed at me because even she only uses one or two chipotle peppers in a pot of stew. My logic was, if you aren’t meant to use a ton of them, why do they come in such a big can? No one could explain that to me, but then I recently accidentally bought a can of hominy bigger than my head, because it was so cheap that it had to be small.
I dubbed my tortilla soup, soupa de Pompei. Since then I’ve made the real thing several times with no chipotles at all. Don’t think I’ve touched one since.