I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. There are few things in life more satisfying to the soul than growing, harvesting and eating your own fresh food. Reaping what we sow resonates throughout our beings physically, mentally and spiritually. This recipe for Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder is a symphony of home-grown harvest flavors that celebrates the history and culture of both hispanic and native American peoples. Not to mention that it’s absolutely delicious, you’ll just have to try it and find out for yourself! Poblano chilies are a large but mild chile pepper that grows fantastically well here in NM, and can be purchased in most grocers in the USA with a good produce section.
Building a soup (or chowder) from scratch that actually tastes good is something I’ve always had on my bucket list since I was a teenager. It turns out it’s not unlike building a house, with the foundation being the most important part. In this post I’ll walk you through building a delicious soup from scratch using produce you could easily grow anywhere in a backyard vegetable garden or even in pots on your doorstep.
Building Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder from scratch
Fresh ingredients are essential to this recipe, right down to the corn. Avoid canned or frozen corn for this recipe. Each is par-boiled and won’t release the juices you’ll need to add great flavor to and thicken the chowder. Shuck fresh ears of corn and slice the kernels off with a sharp serrated knife. I like to do this in a casserole dish or high-rimmed baking sheet to give me enough room to cut the corn and catch all the little kernels.
Once your kernels are free of the cob, it’s a really good idea to prepare and measure out all the other ingredients too, saving the bacon for last if you want to use just one cutting board. Then you can concentrate on building a great soup!
In the beginning of this recipe you’ll be ‘roasting’ (broiling) the corn and poblano peppers in your oven while you begin to build the soup on the stove top. I’ll be the first to admit: I may be the only woman in the world that is bad at multitasking. It is what it is; I’ve been blessed with other strengths. However, even I can pull off a recipe like this no prob, as long as I set timers for myself so I don’t forget to check my food! So pop those veggies in under the broiler to brown/blacken and set the timer for 7 minutes (when you’ll flip the peppers and stir the corn half way through). When chili peppers roast, they blacken. Totally normal. Once out of the oven you’ll steam them by placing them in a covered dish for a few minutes. This makes it easy to peel off the outer layer of tough skin.
In a large dutch oven or stockpot, add in the diced bacon and set the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is mostly crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon so the bacon grease stays in the pot. (The brown fond stuck to the bottom and bacon grease left behind will add tremendous flavor to the soup.) Now, add the diced onion (and a pinch of salt; I always salt my onion) and cook it in the bacon fat until it’s softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and ‘bloom’ the flavor by sauteing it for only 30 seconds.
Pour in the chicken broth, (careful, it will hiss and boil like crazy at first) and add the potatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add in the corn when it’s done roasting in the oven. (You wanna to make amazing soup? Never use water, always use chicken, beef or vegetable stock. I keep bullion cubes handy and always use them.) Stir and scrape the bottom a bit, then boil the soup gently for about 20 minutes to cook the potatoes. In the meantime while the soup is boiling, peel the blistered skin off the poblano peppers and discard. Chop up the chili peppers. When the potatoes are soft, remove from heat and add in the lime juice, half and half, minced cilantro and additional salt and pepper to taste.
To thicken the chowder, puree about two cups worth in a blender and stir it back into the soup. Or even better, just use a handy dandy immersion blender for a few seconds. I’m asking Santa for one this christmas. Hint, hint…. anyway, this is a great trick that I’ve used on almost all my stews and chowders. Return the chowder to low heat and stir in those chopped peppers. Once the chowder is heated through, dish it up and garnish with a sprinkling of bacon and crumbled queso fresco (mexican mozzarella), and enjoy.
With these pictures, I should *note* a couple things. First, I couldn’t find any poblano peppers at the grocery store the day I made and photographed this soup. But not to worry, they did carry Pasilla peppers, which are quite similar in size, taste, and mildness, so that’s what’s pictured. The other thing is that there is no cilantro in the soup. That’s because I can’t stand cilantro. Sorry everyone! Just one of my weird and quirky dislikes. If you really know your herbs, you’d notice that I’ve used Italian flat leaf parsley to garnish my chowder instead. I love me some Italian flat leaf parsley, yes I do :0)
**Another note** I forgot to mention above, but it’s very important to take care when working with chiles that you DO NOT touch your eyes. Like ever. Do not hesitate to wear gloves if it will help you remember. The capsaicin inside the chile will burn hotter than the hinges of hell if you get it in your eyes…. don’t be scared of them, just be wise. Wash your hands twice to make sure you get it all off. Even with a mild chile such as the poblano chili pepper there’s still enough heat to really hurt if you get it in your eye.
The original inspiration for this recipe came from CooksCountry.com, a fantastic resource for great recipes. I’d recommend signing up to anyone interested in improving their cooking skills.