“Rich, rich, rich, pale green with teeny tiny flecks of carrot and a perfect corn, cream, poblano balance” – that’s what I jotted down about el Papagayo’s crema de elote y poblano – cream of corn and poblano. Of all the wonderful food we ate in Loreto, this is the one I was most interested in recreating as a family meal. It was served topped with fresh diced tomato and had a few discernible corn kernels, but was mostly a lovely, velvety, pureed soup.
I thought it would be nice to recreate as a chowder, but my first try was much more hot mess than chowdery goodness. The first mistake: cutting my carrots and potatoes into stew-size chunks instead of soup-sized nibbles. The biggest mistake: simmering corn on the cob with seeded poblano peppers to make what I thought would be a tasty green pepper-infused corn stock. Fail. Big time. Since I didn’t char the poblano first, the broth was WAY too spicy, and not in a “good burn after the bite” sort of way, just in a “I just bit into a poblano” bitter spice sort of way. Because of the strong raw pepper taste, the corn was lost along with any depth of flavor. Plus, it still wasn’t green.
Sadly, though, I’d already added two cups of the mixture to a sautéed onion, celery, and carrot base, so I carried on, simmering the corn cobs in the soup to boost the corn flavor. Then the cobs started to disintegrate, leaving tiny corn kernel casings in the soup. Grrr. I gave up on trying to infuse any more corn taste I just pulled out the cobs that I could. I also forgot to add any sort of thickener and the milk was 2%, so we ended up with watery bowls of chunky, spicy vegetables.
But wait – it gets better.
Because, thankfully, my family is very forgiving. Especially because they didn’t see the disintegrating corn cobs in the soup. And especially since I served it topped with sour cream, chopped tomato, and bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon.
If at first you don’t succeed, try try again, they say. And I’m happy to report my second try was wonderful – creamy and corny chowder with a lovely fresh poblano taste. No bitterness at all – only a hint of heat. I used a bag of frozen corn this time and charred the poblanos over the gas burner to release their zesty flavor. The turmeric adds a nice bit of punch as well as enhances the color. Serve with chopped tomatoes on top and warm tortillas on the side, and keep the Tapatio sauce handy in case you want a little kick. A perfect winter soup (or foggy summer evening soup!), hearty, filling, and kid-friendly.
Here is the recipe for you to print and try for yourself:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely minced
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 3 poblano peppers, seeded, charred, and finely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 16-oz bag frozen corn
- 4 Yukon gold pototoes, chopped into ½" pieces
- 4 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock or water work just fine)
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 3 cups milk (substitute half and half for a richer soup)
- A note on vegetable stock: It takes less time to make your own stock than it does to go the the grocery and pick up a can, and you'll be saving your family an unhealthy amount of added sodium - even the most well-meaning canned stocks contain about 39% of your daily sodium in just one cup; the 1 tsp salt in this recipe already adds 11% daily sodium intake per cup serving. All you really need to do to make a tasty stock is to trust your instincts; throw a few nice-looking, quartered vegetables in water - any combination of carrots, celery, onion, fennel, potato, leek, and mushroom, for example, all work fine. Skip the stronger-flavored veg like broccoli, artichoke, and asparagus. Add a couple cloves of garlic and some herbs, like parsley and thyme or ginger and lemongrass. Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes, strain, and voila.
- First, char or grill your poblanos. I do this by taking the poblanos, cutting them in half, discarding the stem and seeds, and slice the halves into half again. If you have a gas cooktop, place them directly over medium-high flame to smoke them a bit and char the outside skin. Use tongs. Don’t scratch your eyes after you play with the peppers. Better yet, wear gloves. I use empty bread wrappers.
- Set peppers aside to cool.
- Pour olive oil into your pot, add onion, and cook 5 minutes on medium heat. Add celery and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently each time.
- Add the bag of frozen corn, the chopped potatoes, and the vegetable stock.
- Put about a half-cup of vegetable stock in a small bowl, whisk in the corn starch, and then return to the pot
- Bring just to a boil, then reduce to simmer
- Cut poblanos into small pieces: this works best if you slice them into thin strips and then cut cross-wise. If you are so inclined, or have children who won't eat green chunks of veggies in their soup, you can puree in a food processor.
- Add salt and turmeric
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Add milk and simmer for another 5-10 minutes; do not boil.
- Serve and enjoy!