January 27, 2011

Creamy Corn Soup with Chicken and Roasted Chiles

I let the husband choose the second official cookbook for my cooking project. We are huge Rick Bayless fans at my house, so it was no surprise when he picked Everyday Mexican. Since I have tried many recipes (with great success) out of this book already, I challenged myself by picking three dishes that we normally would have automatically passed over for this week. This soup was one of them. I don't know why, but corn soup is not something I think about making at home. Processed forms of corn are so prevalent in our food system, I automatically dismiss actual corn as part of our meal. (Read or watch anything by Michael Pollan and you will understand where I am coming from; current corn production/processing is pretty much the devil.) I think I have become a little prejudiced against corn. Since I knew in my heart Rick Bayless would not steer my wrong, I set aside my issues with corn and made this soup. At first, I will admit, I was luke-warm about it. However, the more I ate of it, the more I absolutely loved it. It really took me a few bites to understand and fully appreciate this soup. As expected, it was hearty, subtle, and delicious. We all had seconds...which is a definite seal of approval around our table.

Creamy Corn Soup with Chicken and Roasted Chiles
Adapted From: the Everyday Mexican cookbook, by: Rick Bayless

2 large fresh pasilla chiles or poblano chiles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 cups corn kernels, frozen
1-2 tablespoon corn starch
1 quart milk
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or about 3/4 pound leftover chicken
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish

Roast the chiles directly on the open flame of a stovetop or under a broiler until charred and blackened all over, 5-10 minutes depending on method. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel until cool enough to handle.

In the meantime, heat the oil over medium heat in a 3-quart saucepan and add the garlic and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Transfer to a food processor along with the corn, cornstarch, and 1 1/2 cups of the milk.(I used an immersion blender and pureed it right in the pot.) Process into a purée and transfer back to the saucepan, straining out the corn kernel skins if desired.(I did not strain my corn kernel skins out of our soup, I wanted a heartier texture.) Bring to a simmer, whisking frequently.

When the chile is cooled somewhat, rub off the blackened skins, pull out the stem and seeds, and rinse to complete the job. Cut into 1/4-inch strips or pieces, then stir into the simmering soup along with the chicken and remaining milk. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, if necessary, stirring as you go. Serve with sprinkled cilantro.

The Result:
As I said this was delicious, and fairly easy to put together. I used some pre-cooked chicken breasts, so I did not need to cook the chicken in the soup. I couldn't find poblanos, so I used pasilla chiles as a substitution that worked out just fine. Also, see my notes (in italics) in the cooking directions for a couple of minor changes I made to the original directions. My only real issue I had was that I needed more cornstarch than the original ingredients indicated. I think I probably used about 3 tablespoons of corn starch to get the texture I was going for. I would recommend starting with 1 tablespoon of corn starch and then adding more as you go, until you get the desired result for your soup. The chiles were not spicy, but gave the soup a great roasted flavor. Thanks Rick Bayless for another keeper to add to our repertoire.

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