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Today's Case

Old Bay & Tortilla Strips Soup

Re: Searching for a soup recipe
From: Heather
Date: 8/4/2023, 4:19 PM
To: Phaedrus 

On 8/4/2023 8:10 AM, Heather wrote:

Uncle Phaedrus,

I’m looking for a tortilla soup recipe that was an Old Bay Seasoning contest winner, 
perhaps as far back as the late 80’s. 

Thank you for searching.


Hi Heather,

You are only giving me two clues here:

The name of the soup is "tortilla soup"(or possibly "chicken tortilla soup"?)
The soup was an "'Old Bay Seasoning' contest winner" and therefore called for Old Bay Seasoning.

I had no success finding any lists of former "Old Bay Seasoning" recipe contests. I thought that perhaps the contest was not actually sponsored by "Old Bay", but by someone else, and the winning recipe had Old Bay Seasoning as an ingredient. I had no success finding anything like that. No mention of Old Bay contest recipes except for crab soup and other crab recipes, which is Old Bay's main calling. Why do you believe that the recipe was an Old Bay Seasoning contest winner? Is your information reliable? The 1980s were a long time past...

Alternatively, I dropped the "contest winner" clue and just searched for a tortilla soup recipe (or taco soup recipe) that called for Old Bay Seasoning. The pickings were very slim. Taco soup recipes almost invariable call for "taco seasoning" or "picante sauce," or else just several individual spices. "Tortilla soup" recipes usually just call for several common spices such as chili powder and oregano, onions and peppers, etc.

If you can provide any additional clues about the recipe you want, send them on and I'll look some more.

I'll post this for reader input.


On 8/4/2023 12:33 PM, Heather wrote:

Hi Phaed,

It was definitely from a contest sponsored by Old Bay. In searching myself on
the Old Bay web site I saw a reference to a 50th anniversary recipe contest. 
It was written on a little folded pamphlet attached to a container of Old Bay 
a very long time ago. The word “tortilla” was not used in the recipe title, 
but the recipe called for tortillas that were cut into strips and either baked 
or broiled. Most of the strips were incorporated into the soup to thicken it, 
the rest of the strips were for garnish. The recipe called for 8 cups of chicken 
broth, 2 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning, tomatoes, bay leaves, cooked chicken. 
here were other spices and maybe lemon juice required. 
I guess I could almost duplicate it but I’d love to find the exact ingredients 
because it was so good.

Thanks, Phaed.

Hi Heather,

When you said "the word 'tortilla' was not used in the recipe title...", I was disappointed, because I had spent a lot of time looking for a recipe called "tortilla soup" with Old Bay Seasoning in it.

So now I only know that it contained "Old Bay Seasoning", tortilla strips and chicken, but have no idea what the recipe was named. The recipe contests clue is no help, because I could not find any soup recipe at all that contained Old Bay Seasoning and mentioned a recipe contest.

I found that Old Bay Seasoning originated with a company called "The Baltimore Spice Company", but was sold to McCormick in 1995. The "Old Bay Website" is a sub-page of the McCormick's website. In 1989, the Baltimore Spice Company, on the 50th anniversary of Old Bay Seasoning, held a recipe contest for recipes using Old Bay Seasoning. See this newspaper article:
"This year is the 50th anniversary of Old Bay, and to mark the event Baltimore Spice did what most food companies do: It sponsored a recipe contest."

Perhaps your soup recipe won that contest and then the Baltimore Spice Company issued a pamphlet with that recipe, which they attached to each container of Old Bay sold that year. However, that was over 30 years ago, and apparently no one has posted that recipe from the pamphlet on the Internet.

The only other place that I think that recipe may have been published is in a cookbook issued in 1997. This cookbook is available used. It's $92.00 on Amazon. See: The blurb says this: "'Cooking With Old Bay' showcases the winners of the 50th Anniversary Recipe Contest held in the Spring of 1989. Amateur chefs from across the country shared their favorite Old Bay recipes with our panel of culinary experts. Out of hundreds of entries, our judges have selected the 50 tastiest Old Bay dishes."
The same cookbook is for sale on Ebay, somewhat cheaper.

However, there is a photo of the book's index at the below link on Ebay, and there is no mention in it of a soup that matches your description. See: Cooking with Old Bay on Ebay

Seems to me that if your soup recipe was a winner, it would be in that cookbook.

I'm sorry, but I cannot find anything matching the information that you are providing.



Thanks so much for your research and effort. I found the Cooking with Old Bay 
cookbook on a website called Thriftbooks for around $10. I’ll let you know if 
it includes “the recipe”.

Thank you again. I really appreciate your time.

Subject: Fwd: Old Bay & Tortilla Strips Soup
From: Phaedrus
Date: 9/5/2023, 4:30 PM
To: Heather

Hi Heather,

Did you get the cookbook? Was the recipe in it?

I just received the below email from another of my readers, Russell. Unbeknownst to me there also exists a second volume of the Old Bay Cookbook called "More Cooking with Old Bay", and it contains a recipe that is very similar to the one that you describe. Russell sent me a photo of it. It is called "Michael Chmar's Tortilla Soup."  While it does not match your recipe exactly, it is very close and if the other recipe does not turn up, this appears to be a worthy substitute. Phaed

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Old Bay & Tortilla Strips Soup
Date: 	Tue, 5 Sep 2023 16:00:02 +0000
From: 	russell

This from the “More Cooking with Old Bay” cookbook.

Michael Chmar's Tortilla Soup (transcribed from photo by Phaed)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 jar(12 ounces) sweet roasted red peppers 
2 fresh roasted red bell peppers, peeled & seeded
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 can(4 ounces) chopped green chiles
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken broth
5 corn tortillas, fried or toasted crisp
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon OLD BAY SEASONING
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
Fried tortilla strips, as a garnish
Sour cream, as a garnish
Fresh cilantro sprigs, as a garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat 
Add the onion, carrot and garlic. Saute 5 minutes or until 
the onion is transparent.

Add the white wine, red peppers, tomatoes, chiles, bay leaf 
and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Break the tortillas into small pieces and add to the soup. Add 
the remaining ingredients. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

The recipe wasn’t in cookbook #1 much to my annoyance, and I 
couldn’t find Book #2 at a price I was willing to spend.

This recipe, with the Old Bay seasoning, sounds close. I’ll give it a try.  
I do appreciate that you remembered that I was looking. THANK YOU so much. 

Very best,

Thanks again, Russell!

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