In a large soup pot over medium heat, add chicken and cover with water; add the Sazon seasoning, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Poach the chicken approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when cut with the tip of a knife; remove chicken from the broth and set aside to cool. Strain the broth, removing all the peppercorns and the bay leaves; return the strained chicken broth back to the soup pot and set aside until ready to use.
When the cooked chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the bones and cut or shred into bite-size pieces; set aside.
While the chicken is cooking, cut the tortilla into strips about 1/4-inch wide and 3- to 5-inches long; set aside until time to fry.
In a medium-sized frying pan over medium high heat, heat the vegetable oil; add the chopped onions and fry until opaque. Add the chopped garlic and fry for 1 more minute. Remove the onion and garlic and set aside.
Fry the tortilla strips in the same oil (this way they pick up the onion and garlic flavors) until lightly brown and crisp; remove from the hot oil, drain on a paper towel, and keep warm until ready to serve.
In the same oil the onion, garlic, and tortilla strips were fried, add the tomato puree very carefully as this tends to splatter. Add the onion and garlic into the tomato puree and continue to cook for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Add this tomato mixture, cooked chicken pieces, and sliced carrots to the strained chicken broth.
Use the tops of the cilantro for the 2 teaspoons of leaves needed. Chop the cilantro leaves fine and then crush them well to release the flavor of the cilantro. Add the crushed cilantro and Lawry's seasoning salt to the soup pot with the chicken broth.
Over low heat, let the soup simmer approximately 20 to 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Add the mint sprigs and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
Serve in soup bowls filled with the fried tortilla strips.
To serve, place a small pile of the fried tortilla strips into each soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the top of the tortilla strips. Top with Cojita cheese if desired.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
* The U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as food agencies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, advises against washing poultry. Rinsing chicken will not remove or kill much bacteria, and the splashing of water around the sink can spread the bacteria found in raw chicken. Cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit effectively destroys the most common culprits behind food-borne illness.
** Sazon is the Spanish word for seasoning. Depending on your neighborhood, you can usually find Sazon Seasoning in the Mexican foods sections of most grocery stores. You can also purchase this season on line. Just click on the green link to order.
*** Learn How To Make Corn Tortillas.
Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe: https://whatscookingamerica.net/CynthiaPineda/ChickenTortillaSoup/ChickenTortillaSoup.htm