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Monday, September 3, 2012

Healthy Corn Soup with Poblano Chile Garnish

Creamy Corn and Poblano Soup

Healthy Corn Soup with Poblano Chile
by Victoria Challancin

We all have our haunts, places we regularly visit to get our own particular inspiration and get new ideas.  Martha Rose Shulman's "Recipes for Health" series in The New York Times is just such a site.  Each week Shulman focuses on a seasonal ingredient or theme and explores it in the loveliest of ways, offering vibrant new recipes with interesting touches.  All appealing.  All healthy.

Last week I was dazzled with her newest recipes featuring corn--corn, glorious corn, just like the sweet corn we now have flooding our markets.  I was particularly drawn to this creamy, but creamless, corn soup, garnished with my favorite chile, the chile poblano.   With a wee smattering of ingredients,  Shulman created a soup worthy of summer's bright produce:  corn, poblano chiles, and cilantro.  Making her vegetarian broth by simply boiling the corn cobs, she created a sweet, light base for this simple soup.  Garnishing it with diced, roasted chile poblano and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro, she managed to harness the bright flavors of the season in the simplest recipe imaginable.

Cook's Notes:  Shulman recommends rinsed the charred chiles.  I never do this as I feel like it removes a layer of flavor.  Instead, I take a paper towel and gently wipe the charred skin away.  If a bit is left, all the better.  Use white onions for the best taste in this recipe.

Recipe:  Creamy Corn and Poblano Soup
(Recipe by Martha Rose Shulman, NYTimes, August 21, 2012)

6 ears of corn (5 cups of kernels)
6 cups water
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 poblano chiles
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or 2 tablespoons minced chives (optional)

Cut the corn off the cobs.  You should have about 5 cups kernels.  Set aside 1 cup of the kernels.

Place the corn cobs in a large soup pot and add the water.  Make sure they are covered or at least floating in the water; you can break them in half if they are very large.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, partly cover and simmer 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt.  Remove and discard the cobs.  Line a strainer with cheesecloth and set it over a bowl.  Strain the broth and measure out 5 cups.  Freeze any leftover broth.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy soup pot and add the onion.  Cook, stirring, until it is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and then add the 4 cups of corn kernels and salt to taste.  Cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the corn is just tender.  Add the corn broth and bring to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile roast the chiles, either directly over a gas flame oer under a broiler, turning often until they are uniformly charred.  Transfer to a plastic bag and seal, or transfer to a bowl and cover tightly.  Allow the peppers to cool, then remove the charred skin, rinse and pat dry.  Remove the seeds and veins.

Steam the remaining 1 cup of corn kernels for the garnish for 5 minutes, until tender.  Set aside.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender, taking care to remove the insert from the top and cover tightly with a kitchen towel to avoid splashes.  Return to the heat, taste and adjust salt, and heat through.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Combine the steamed corn kernels and diced chiles and place a spoonful in the middle of each bowl of soup.  Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro or chives if desired, and serve.

Fresh poblano chiles, Mexico's own

Brief Notes on Poblano Chiles

We probably all have certain aromas that evoke home.  The smell of roasting poblano chiles is that for me.  As I walk in the streets of San Miguel on any given day, the scent of roasting poblano chiles frequently greets me, drawing me in, calling to my heart.  That quintessential smell of Mexico, roasting chiles, always evokes a smile.

Poblano chiles are somewhat unique in vast world of Mexican chiles in that they are used both as a seasoning flavor and as a vegetable in and of itself.  The fresh version of this chile is called poblano, or "people's chile--or "the chile from Puebla," both a town and a state in southeastern Mexico where the chile originated.  On a scale from 1 to 10, with habaneros being a 10 and bell peppers being a zero, poblano chiles rate a mild 3.  Usually, these chiles aren't terribly picante (though at the height of the season they can be surprisingly spicy) and for this reason are easily tolerated by even those who profess not to like chiles.  

The flavor of the poblano chile is deep and rich--quite unlike any other.  Prized as a chile for stuffing, the chile poblano reaches its height of popularity in September, the month honoring Mexican independence, when it is featured throughout the Republic in the national dish of chiles en nogada, a roasted poblano stuffed with a meat picadillo studded with candied cactus, raisins, nuts, fruits, and doused in a heavenly walnut sauce garnished with pomegranate seeds.  Yum.  But I digress.

Physically, the poblano is easy to spot.  A large chile, 3 to 6 inches in length and 2 to 3 inches wide.  Broad at the shoulder (hence the name ancho, or "wide", when dried), this chile tapers to a point, giving it a somewhat heart shape.  The name varies as it travels.  For example, in the American state of California, it is often called chile pasilla, which, in Mexico, is an entirely different chile.  To remove the waxy, thin skin, and to bring out the intense flavor, poblano chiles are usually char-roasted and peeled before using.

Poblano chiles can be found stuffed (as in chiles rellenos--with meat or cheese), in rajas con crema (roasted chile strips in cream), and in cream soups, rice dishes, salsas, and more.  Because of its rich flavor and general mildness, it flourishes as a vegetable.  Once the ripe chile is dried, it takes on a completely different incarnation as an ancho chile, or one of several other cultivars.  Fresh or dried, this is simply the most wonderful chile in the world to me, delicious, versatile, and evocative of home.  A perfect combination.

Parting Shot:
Squash blossoms and cilantro for sale in the Saturday Organic Market

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using photos or text.  Thanks!


Hotly Spiced said...

What a beautiful looking soup served on such a gorgeous plate. The corn gives the soup such a beautiful colour. And I love the zucchini flowers too - they're one of my most favourite things to eat. They make a great entree xx

Minnie(@thelady8home) said...

Not just healthy, its sounding very delicious too.

Eha said...

Two huge 'thank you's. Was unaware of Martha Shulman and hope to be now connected. Secondly: thank you for a very simple soup with such huge potential! Corn is not used to nearly its max powers in Australia: am hopimg to make somewhat of a difference amongst own friends and neighbours! Methinks we all agree about zucchini flowers many may as yet not know to enjoy :) !

indianist said...

With the help of your guide i prepared a soup which is delicious thanks for the information

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'[m crazy for corn Victoria! :D I love white corn especially as it is so sweet and juicy but it's hard to find here! A delicious looking soup and I agree re the charred chillies :)

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

A wonderful summer soup made from fresh corn. And your final shot is so pretty. said...

What a perfect mexican dish. i like anything with corn most especially soup. What a great combination of flavours.

Nancy said...

What a scrumptious recipe! I love corn soups and poblano just compliments it so well. I'm with you about not rinsing the charred chiles, never do it either. Thanks for sharing :)

Yvette ~ Muy Bueno said...

I'm looking forward to soup season. And I will be sure to save this recipe. Yummy! said...

I am also looking forward to soup season and I am book marking this one...