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July, 2012

Mexican Style Corn Chowder with Roasted Poblano Chile

By Heidi Allison

While most corn chowders north of the Mexican border use butter, cream, half & half or full-fat milk as their foundation, this little gem uses no saturated fat at all— a much better choice for both your heart, brain and waistline!

Poblano Chile

This creamy, thick and soul-satisfying corn chowder is a homage to that iconic, Central and Eastern Mexican dish—Chileatole. Somewhere between a thick drink and a soup, this ancient dish dates back to 500 BC, and is so revered in Mexico that atole festivals are held annually through the country. Touted to be a cure for hangovers, colds and depression, thin, sweet atoles are served as a breakfast drink, or late night snack, adding sugar, honey, fruit, cinnamon or chocolate to the toasted corn and water purée. Thicker “chileatoles” veer more toward the soup genre, and are savory in their flavor profile— adding chilies, tomatoes and homemade chicken stock to the puréed fresh corn. Served at lunch or dinner, this rendition makes a comforting, healthy and budget-friendly meal!

While most corn chowders north of the Mexican border use butter, cream, half & half or full-fat milk as their foundation, this little gem uses no saturated fat at all— a much better choice for both your heart, brain and waistline! Instead, this clever chowder relies on the starch from the fresh corn, corn flour (aka “masa harina”), and the corn’s cooking water to act as its thickening agent. Moreover, omitting that hefty dose of dairy has another upside -- it allows the sweet, complex flavor of the corn, roasted chilies, softened garlic and tomatillos to emerge to the forefront and steal center stage, rather than relying on fat for flavor! If masa harina is hard to source, you can change out that item by puréeing 2 fresh corn tortillas with ¼ cup of hot water in a blender. Another option is using equal parts of corn starch and water -- in this recipe, use a ratio of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of water. While this cornstarch slurry will tighten up the chowder in a pinch, the downside to this method is that you sacrifice a lot of that comforting, rich “corn” flavor in the finished dish.

Other regional variations for this soup that provide a different flavor profile include: Sprinkling crumbled Cotija cheese, sliced avocado or toasted pepitas over the top right before serving. Adding grilled chicken, a drizzle of Mexican Crema, and fresh minced cilantro is a great way to up the protein content of this dish, making it a healthy, low-fat , one-dish meal!

Mexican-Style Corn Chowder with Roasted Poblano Chile
Makes: 2 servings as an entrée; 4 as a side dish

Mexican-Style Corn Chowder with Roasted Poblano Chile

Ingredients
:
Corn Chowder
1 Poblano Chile, roasted, peeled, seeded; then cut into ¼ inch lengthwise strips
4 ears of Fresh Corn
2 cups Homemade Chicken Stock, heated
2 cups Tomatillo Salsa (see below)
1 Tablespoon Sunflower Oil (can substitute w/ corn oil)
2 Tablepsoons Masa Harina (corn flour) mixed with ¼ cup of Corn Cooking
Water

Tomatillo Salsa
1 pound Tomatillos (about 8 medium); husks removed and rinsed
1 Poblano Chile, stem removed
1 Jalapeno Chile, stem removed
1 smoked Serrano Chile, stem removed
4 cloves Garlic
1 large bunch Cilantro
1 Tablespoon Flake Kosher Salt
A few grinds of Black Pepper

Preparation:
Place tomatillos in a medium pot and add enough water to cover. Add the remainder of the ingredients and heat on medium heat until simmering. Cook till the tomatillos change color to an olive green and become soft to the touch—about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and place in the food processor and purée until smooth. Adjust salt to taste, and set aside.

Soup:
Place corn in a large pot of water and heat on high heat till boiling. Immediately cover corn, and turn off heat. Allow the corn to sit in hot water for 15 minutes, then remove corn cobs and cut off kernels—you should have about 3 cups of corn kernels.

Place 2 cups of corn, 1 cup tomatillo salsa, chicken stock and oil in a food processor. Purée until smooth; then place in a medium pot and heat on medium heat until hot. Add masa harina/ water mixture to the soup; then stir with a wooden spoon till the soup thickens. Add another cup of salsa and stir till you have the consistency of oatmeal.

Ladle corn chowder into soup bowls, and top with strips of roasted Poblano chilies. Serve immediately.