Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Corn Pepper soup

So we're more than midway through summer and I know we should be bummed out, but I think this is the best time of the year. You might be saying to yourself "This fucking guy is crazy, nobody likes this time of year", but trust me my friends when I say that there is a lot to be happy for.

One of the greatest parts of this time of year is the unbelievable bounty from all of the farmers around us. There are so many amazingly good fruits and vegetables rocking right now that if you're not going to a farmers market you are seriously missing out. The weekly trip to the local supermarket has made us jaded to seasonal items that comparatively taste a million times better. Look, I'm not one for peacing out the Safeway, but when given the choice of the two, it's easy to pick the farmer's market when we're talking about buying meats, fruits, or vegetables. Seasonal foods are something we should all take advantage of while it's here. Why wouldn't we want to eat a tomato from some dude that lives 20 miles away and just picked it 7 hours ago? It's a hell of a lot better than from a big conglomerate that has had those tomatoes picked before ripe, shipped for days on a refrigerated container, and then piled up neatly at your local supermarket to sit for a few more days. That's not to say that I don't take advantage of the supermarket in the winter, but now, it's all about the local shit.

And this is what this recipe is all about. Right now there are two thriving crops for the local farmer: tomatoes and peppers. They grow like mad at this time of year. Ask anyone that has a small crop growing in their backyard.

Corn is ubiquitous this time of year. Farmers have tons of the stuff and sell it cheaply. This is good since most of us don't dare try to grow corn in our backyards. It would look a little odd in my small city backyard.
It goes without saying that peppers are easier to cultivate in your backyard. If you own a plant, then you know that they just grow and grow....... and they don't stop growing until October (which is when you make hot sauce) but at this time of the year it can become daunting to figure out what to do with all of the peppers that you have. That's what the recipe is for.

1 stick of butter (not pictured)
1 tablespoon cumin mix* (see recipe later) (also not pictured)
1 medium onion
5 Anaheim peppers
5 ears of corn
2 poblano peppers
1 quart of milk
2 cups of stock (I used chicken, but you can use vegetable)
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 small bunch of thyme

Now this may seem to be a pretty complicated soup but trust me when I say its not. It's not fancy, it's not technical, but it yields flavor that yells summer and makes you want to get into a fire hydrant (if you grew up in the city that is).

The hardest part of this recipe is the prep, and the hardest part is burning your food. What???? Yes, burn your food! It will make the dish smoky and deep. Burning your corn and peppers brings out a flavor that is vital to the dish and easy to do. "But I don't have my grill set up" you say. Well that doesn't matter. It's all done on the stove top. It may get a little smoky in your house, but it's a small price to pay for greatness.

So let's start:

1. Put your largest burner on high. Set two of your ears of corn across the grill of the burner and let it char. Once it's black, then you will flip it to a virgin side and let it get dirty as well. Repeat until all sides are charred. If your have an electric stove (I'm so sorry), you can char your corn under the broiler.

2. After your corn is charred, it's time for your poblano to get the fire treatment. All you have to do is the same technique that you used on the corn. Pepper plus stove top fire equals hell fire charred pepper.

But unlike the corn, what you want to do with the peppers after they are burnt up is to put them into a plastic zip top bag. Leave them there until you are actually cooking. This way the skin that you charred on the pepper will have separated from the flesh thus making it easier to peel off. When they are cool to the touch, peel and seed them. Chop them roughly.

Now that you have napalmed your main ingredients, you're ready to actually start your regular prep.

3. Grab your ears of corn and after they have been shucked, take your knife and cut the kernels off of the ear. A great trick to this is to cut your corn over a kitchen towel. If you've ever tried to cut corn on a flat surface you will know why I'm saying to cut it on a towel. Try it both ways if you want; and then send me an email about how you didn't want to listen to me and how you think I am a genius

Now that you have cut all of the kernels off of the ears, its time to scrape. It might seem like a trivial chore, but scraping the corn ears will get a lot of the corn essence into the dish. Just scrape your knife from one end of the ear to the other. Do it over a bowl and then wipe it into the corn kernels that you have masterly cut off.

4. Now that your corn cobs are spent, it's time to throw them away right? Wrong!! You want to cut up your cobs into thirds and toss them into a pot and cover them with your chicken stock (use a small pot!). Once submerged, turn your burner up until high and bring it to a boil and then turn down to a simmer (bubbles popping every few seconds). Let this simmer until you need to pour it into your vegetables.

5.  In a pot, (I use an enameled pot) melt your butter until it is bubbling and separated. Watch it until it turns a deep brown and gets a nutty smell.  

6. Throw in your onions, anaheims, and corn. Saut√© the hell out of them until the onions are translucent. Once they are, you add your herbs, spice mixture, and chopped up roasted poblanos. Breathe easy, the hard part is over. Congratulate yourself with a cold beer.

7. Now it's time to add your corn infused stock. Pour your stock through a strainer to catch any corn cobs that will want to go swimming in your soup. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to let it simmer for 10 minutes. .

8. After ten minutes it's time to add your milk. After the milk is added, DO NOT bring this soup up to a boil. It will make the milk separate ....... we don't want that. Just heat it up enough to be hot.

9. After the veg is soft you will want to take 1/4 of the veg mixture and puree the shit out of it. This will add body and a more "soupy" texture. You can skip this step; you will get a more "rustic" Yet, less flavorful soup.

Ladle out your beautiful soup into a bowl and sprinkle a little bit of cheese on top and then add some crushed tortilla chips. Finish it off with a bit more cheese and dig in. This is a great, cheap and hearty summer soup. It can also be made in the fall to help with feeding a lot of people for tailgating.

I hope you dig it. Cheers!!

You thought I forgot about the cumin mix didn't you. Here is the recipe.

2 tablespoons coriander seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed

Place your whole seeds into a hot pan and toast them until you can really start to smell them, or they start smoking. Transfer the seeds to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Pulverize until it is a fine powder. It's now ready to use.


Anonymous said...

I love the photos! Looks much better than the rehydrated peas and carrots left in the water fountain from Top Ramen on second floor of Frost Hall.

Looks yummy...I'm going to try this. -Nicole

Anonymous said...

2.5 questions--
1. what's the chicken stock for--was i supposed to cook the corn in stock rather than water?
1.5--how much corn-water do you add to the sauteed vegs? (2 cups?)
2. When do you add the spice mixture--with the herbs and poblanos?
ok, that is all.
can't wait to eat it!!

Unknown said...

1. Add the corn cobs to the chicken stock.

2. Add the spice mixture with your herbs and peppers.

Let me know how you liked it!

misssamala said...

Ok, so now that the soup is made-holy crap! that is some corny goodness!!
at first, i asked john if it could be frozen. Then I said I could give some to my neighbor. Now I don't even want to share it with my husband (but alas, he already has tried it and that's a no-go!)
Do NOT forget the crushed chips and shredded cheese--makes it a meal!!
Thanks again john!!

Nakiya @ Taste of Baltimore said...

holy crap your pictures are awesome! It was great meeting you! Keep me updated about your cooking classes :)

Wendy said...

yum, this looks delicious! Wish I'd read this earlier when the farmer's markets had a virtual silo full of fresh corn.