Poblano Makes For One Hot Soup

poblano soupI like spicy food.

I even like really spicy food.

In my current state of broken jaw with mouth wired shut, I seem to be missing spicy food. Even more than a nice chewy cut of red meat. I am sure that particular craving will hit me soon (like a ton of bricks). After all my mouth has been closed for business less than a week now. Give it some time. The worst is yet to come. I am sure it will start to get ugly real soon.

But right now, right here, today, I want something spicy and south of the border in flavor.

I’d really like a torta al pastor from any one of the many thousands of taco stands or trucks that dot the corners of Los Angeles (gosh, you gotta LOVE Los Angeles). But pork is not a tune my teeth can tap to anytime soon. Heck even bread or tortillas are out of the question for several more weeks.

What’s a man to do?

prepping poblano soupWell, enter Gothixhalox. Gothixhalox is one of my virtual friends. I know her through StumbleUpon. Which I realize is not really like knowing someone. But somehow she seems to know me too. And I mean she really knows what I am craving.

In response to my whining yesterday about my jaw, she suggested a poblano soup. My first impulse was she must mean a tortilla soup, flavored with poblanos. But there was no way I was getting no stinkin’ tortillas down my gullet in my current condition. Even if I let them get soggy. 

Besides good tortilla soup is all about texture. Crunchy, soft, and slurpy. Silly Gothixhalox. What was she thinking?

But then that triggered another memory. We used to have this wonderful housekeeper Evelia (now retired). Once when I had a bad cold (I am talking more than 12 years ago). She said she would bring me some nice poblano soup from home. Once again, I assumed she meant tortilla soup. But she told me there was no such thing as tortilla soup. Which was an odd statement, but I let it pass.

She assured me that, for what ailed me, I needed a spicy poblano soup. “Not too spicy” she said “save that for when you are feeling better”.  Another odd statement I let pass.

Well, when she arrived she was carrying a pot of soup that had many of the same flavors as tortilla soup. But its texture was silky. There were tasty little 1‑inch sections of corn on the cob floating in there too. She served it with chicken on the side, chunks of avocado, and a tiny bit of Jack cheese. And man oh man it was HOT!

How could I have forgotten such a wonderful soup? Not to mention the incredible gesture of love and kindness from a woman who seemed to relish taking care of us in ways that went way beyond her call of duty.

So I thank Gothixhalox for reminding me of that long ago head cold and a lunch of delicious and heartwarming poblano soup. Because not only am I in the mood for spicy, my heart could use some warming too.

I never got that recipe from Evelia. But I do remember she said that you had to grind up corn tortillas into masa-like cornmeal textured powder. Then cook it with butter, flour and spices to form a thick paste. Which I now recognize as a kind of roux!

The rest of the recipe I pieced together from various Internet sources. It seems a (now defunct) place called Cavanaugh’s Restaurant in Webster, Texas made up a mean batch. My version owes a lot to the accolades I read online about theirs.

Because of my predicament, I left the corn cobb-ettes out. Though I recommend you add them. The chicken appears in the photo as a serving suggestion. As does avocado, beans and tortillas. But those are just props on my plate. Same with the spoon, because I“ll be using a straw– I am sorry to say. 

To facilitate the straw I pureed mine. It’s better if you don’t. Though it’s up to you. My version is also quite a bit spicier than most of the online versions I saw because I used a lot of poblano and I added 1 jalapeno. I was following my muse Evelia. You can adjust these amounts as you like.

But Evelia’s recipe had that certain spicy zing that must have been jalapeno. And as I said I like spicy food. I even like really spicy food! Working mandible or no…

Poblano Soup (serves 6)

poblano soup2 (6 inch) corn tortillas, plus more for serving on the side
3 tablespoons flour
1/2‑teaspoon chili powder
1‑teaspoon ground cumin
1/2‑teaspoon salt
1/2‑teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 finely diced onion
1 finely diced poblano pepper, seeds and membranes removed
1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed (optional)
1 clove minced garlic
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken broth
2 ears raw corn on the cobb, cut into 1‑inch sections
1/4‑cup sour cream
Shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 avocado, cut into cubes
1/4 cup cooked chicken, shredded from bone (per person)

Slice the tortillas into thin ribbons then place them in a food processor. Pulse them until uniformly chopped. Then add the flour, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Blend continuously until it is the consistency of cornmeal.

Place oil in stockpot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, poblano pepper, jalapeno pepper (if using) and garlic.  Turn the heat down to medium and sauté until the onion is transparent 6–8 minutes.

Add tortilla-flour mixture to the pan stirring until well combined. Add butter and let it melt. Then mix to form a roux-like chunky paste.

Cook 4–5 minutes stirring constantly with a whisk. You want to get out any raw flour taste. But do not let mixture burn.

Once a thick chunky paste has formed stir, slowly adding the 1/2 of the broth and scraping down sides and bottom as you work. After half of the broth has been added continue to stir until you are sure all the powder are well incorporated. Then add the remaining broth and raise the temperature to bring the soup to a boil.

Add the corn cobb-ettes (if using) and let them boil about 1–2 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium low and allow the soup to come to a simmer. Then add sour cream, and cook an additional 7–10 minutes. But do not allow the soup come to a boil.

Turn off heat and let cool a bit. This soup is best served warm, but not hot.

Garnish with shredded cheese and avocado.

Serve the chicken on the side to be added to the bowl as each diner sees fit.


Greg Henry