Dish 16: Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder
Contents Intro Prepping the Dish Cooking the Dish Overall Impressions Final Word Recipe Intro
This week, fall began to announce itself rather noticeably outside the windows of the Quincy Kitchen. We not only saw our second nor’easter (though this was was also a “bomb cyclone”), but for the first time I noticed the leaves on the trees outside my window beginning to change color. Although only a few of those “fixed,” made on a specific week for a specific reason, dishes remain on my menu, the recipes from here on in do have a more strategic, seasonally-appropriate feel.
Meant to welcome fall and provide hearty leftovers, a Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder (or chowdaaaahhhhhh if you’re from my part of the globe!) from Cook’s Country seemed like a wise choice to add to my list of recipes. It also seemed like a great dish to make on a Saturday afternoon, a day that would be Make-A-Soup-Day in my calendar of life.
Prepping the Dish
Katie and I were already running errands in the morning and one of the stops brought us right next to Whole Foods so we decided to get provisions for this meal there. This worked out well because I was confident they’d have poblanos. Not only did they have those, they also had whole, fresh corn.
With those two ingredients in hand along with the other necessary ingredients, I started prepping the dish around 3 PM, and I’m quite glad I did because this dish has a lot to prep. Six ears of corn, a pound of red potatoes, and a whole onion collectively took longer to prep than I thought – hence why I started at 3! The time aside, the prep was just simple chopping and measuring.
The quantities of ingredients I was working with required more space on the island than I was expecting so I quickly clicked into air traffic control mode trying to find a place for everything based on what I needed when. The cilantro and lime went off to another counter and the cheese and sour cream would stay comfortable in the fridge until the soup was in bowls.
About 75% of the prep
As I started grabbing plates and bowls for all my ingredients, I knew there would be a lot of dishes, and I was right. Our very shallow sink was quickly full of dishes, with several more on the way. This is a dish I couldn’t imagine making in my small NYC apartment (either of them!), or even in my second DC apartment despite it’s space. Doing this dish comfortably, I believe, requires a) a kitchen island, or b) an abundance of countertop space.
That also got me thinking of this: Does anyone know of a cookbook or a blog geared towards cooking in tiny spaces, like, oh, I don’t know, a 3 bed 1 bath fourth floor walk-up apartment in NYC where the kitchen, dining room, and living room are all a shared space and all ingredients and cookware live on on a 6’x8’ wire rack because the cabinets in the apartment are inaccessible due to their height and location? Let me know either way, and if that doesn’t exist, I’m preemptively copywriting the idea now!
Cooking the Dish
My rantings of prepping the dish aside, I was faced with the novel task of broiling the peppers and corn. I’d never used the broiler before and quickly found that the baking sheets we have wouldn’t fit where I thought the broiler was located (I say thought because I never turned the broiler on to see what happened). If I’d discovered this the day before, I would’ve planned my time accordingly, put the oven to 425 F and left the corn and peppers on there for 45 minutes. Since I was discovering this at the ready-to-start-cooking stage I fell back on two alternatives.
The corn just needed to be well browned, so I put that in our big, 12” nonstick with oil and let that do its thing. The poblanos needed to be smokey, charred, roasted, and soft, so those were placed over two of the burners on the stovetop. I’d done this before with bell peppers, but needless to say, I had tongs in hand the whole time they were cooking and didn’t take my eye off them. Once the corn was done it was returned to a bowl, and the peppers were put in a glass bowl with a lid to steam them so the skins would come off easier.
Calling a culinary audible
Then it was time to break out my lovely Le Creuset and render some fat out of bacon. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a constant eye on this, and while I knew it needed six minutes to cook and was aware of when I needed to pull it off, I didn’t look at it until I smelled it. By that time, all of the bacon had burnt, and there was no fat; only scorch marks of where the bacon was. When the onions were added and did little to help remove those marks, I knew I’d have to put in some elbow grease after I put away the leftovers and did an initial clean of the pot.
Thankfully, the cooked bacon was only supposed to be a garnish, and the rest of the cooking produced no issues. Once the onions looked done, garlic was briefly added, followed by the potatoes and corn, along with plenty of chicken broth. It probably only took ten minutes for the potatoes to soften. At this point, a little half-and-half was added before two cups of the chowder were transferred to a blender that already had corn tortilla strips waiting. This step not only created a smooth vs. chunky contrast; it also provided chowdery thickness thanks to the tortilla strips. Sure enough, the pot looked like a completely different dish when the pureed mixture was returned and reincorporated. After that, some lime and cilantro was added and it was time to plate and taste.
Almost readyOverall Impressions
I was really surprised that it tasted flat/thin/watery. It was just missing something. This was surprising because it looked and smelled great. Then I realized I’d added none of the garnishes: cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, or queso fresco (bacon was supposed to be here too, but was thrown out for resembling a hockey puck in look and likely texture). I also recognized what I was craving was more dairy so I went for queso fresco and sour cream.To my surprise, those additions helped a lot, almost to the point where I wondered why more dairy wasn’t added to the dish to begin with.
After properly garnishing the dish, I was able to enjoy it. The potatoes and corn were cooked perfectly, the poblanos tasted like a mellow, charred campfire (not spicy at all), and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I could taste those tortilla strips in the dish. Needless to say, don’t forget to add those, and don’t substitute flour for corn tortillas. In a pinch, tortilla chips could help.
After enthusiastically returning to the kitchen for seconds, I was very full, but satisfied not only by the quality of the dish, but that I had 3 pints of leftovers. (A note on leftovers: Katie isn’t a fan of chunky soups and didn’t have any. The amount you end up freezing is likely to vary and will probably be less than this.)
Read this recipe five times, clear your sink, empty your strainer and dishwasher (if you have one), pull out all the bowls you’re going to use for the ingredient prep, and think about where you’re going to place them. Then – and only then – would I suggest you start to undertake this recipe. That’s not to discourage you from making this dish, but the last thing you want to do is start to make it only to realize you have no space to make it and either get frustrated or stop abandon it altogether.
While I think the recipe needs more dairy independent of the garnishes, the final outcome is a positive one that puts it in the above-average tier of the 26 Recipes to date. Unmistakable southwestern flavors of the corn and poblano root a dish that’s well-suited for a cold day. The dishes greatest reward might just be the leftovers, which offer the promise of a hearty and soul-warming dish, but with far less dishes and ready in half the time.
Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder
Time: 1:30 Yields: 4-6 (or lots of leftovers)
Ingredients 2 poblano chiles, stemmed, halved lengthwise, and seeded 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 6 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (5 1/4 cups) Salt and pepper 4 slices bacon, chopped fine 1 onion, chopped fine 2 garlic cloves, minced 7 cups chicken broth 1 pound red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch chunks ¼ cup half-and-half 2 (6-inch) corn tortillas, torn into 1-inch pieces 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro, plus leaves for serving 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving Sour cream Crumbled queso fresco Directions v Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss poblanos with 1 teaspoon oil in bowl. Arrange poblanos cut side down in single column flush against short side of sheet. Toss corn, remaining 2 teaspoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper together in now-empty bowl. Spread corn in even layer on remaining portion of sheet next to poblanos. Broil until poblanos are mostly blackened and corn is well browned and tender, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping poblanos and stirring corn halfway through broiling.STOVETOP METHOD: Roast the poblanos over a medium flame of a gas stovetop burner, flipping ever few minutes until blackened and softened, 10 to 15 minutes. At the same time, cook corn in a 12-inch nonstick skillet with 1 tablespoon neutral oil and cook until well browned, 15 minutes, stirring only a few times. Place poblanos in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove skins and chop poblanos into ½-inch pieces; transfer to clean bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel–lined plate. Add onion and ¼ teaspoon salt to fat left in pot and cook until onion is softened and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, potatoes, browned corn, and ½ teaspoon salt to Dutch oven and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook at vigorous simmer until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half-and-half. Transfer 2 cups chowder to blender. Add tortillas and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Return pureed chowder to pot and stir in chopped poblanos. Return to medium heat and bring to simmer. Stir in minced cilantro, lime juice, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Serve, passing bacon, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, sour cream, and queso fresco separately.