Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mushroom-Potato Crema with Roasted Poblanos

Like many Americans, I grew up with a fondness for Americanized Mexican food, delighting in the tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and nachos that pass for Mexican food in many places in the United States. While those inauthentic dishes can be delicious, as I've aged my tastes have matured and I have developed a love of real Mexican food, inspired in great part by the litany of amazing Rick Bayless recipes. And just as with all the other recipes I tried, this one does not disappoint in the slightest. It is amazing creamy despite only a scant amount of sour cream with just the perfect amount of spice and smokiness from the roasted poblano, made deeply satisfying with earthy, savory mushrooms. To make this even more luxurious, try adding a bit bacon or chorizo and garnishing with a sprinkling of crisp tortilla chips (Rick Bayless' Frontera line is great) along with the cilantro. (I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that this soup is also an irresistable,  if inauthentic, vessel for dunking corn muffins.)

The authentic suite of flavors is not overly aggressive, making this an excellent away to lure towards the true flavors of Mexico and a great option for Meatless Monday (or any weeknight when you find yourself short on time). With a thick blanket of snow on the ground and bitter winds swirling outside, this soup is the perfect way to tuck yourself away from the harsh winter and dream of the warm sun and beautiful beaches of our neighbor to the south.

Mushroom-Potato Crema with Roasted Poblanos
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
makes a generous 6 cups, serving 4

4 medium (about 1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 large fresh poblano chile
8 ounces mushrooms (I like shiitake or oyster mushrooms), sliced 1/4-inch thick (you'll have about 3 cups slices)
1 scant cup corn kernals (they can be frozen or ones you've cut off 1 to 2 large ears)
1 large sprig fresh epazote (you can substitute a big sprig of fresh thyme or leave the herb out all together)
1/4 cup plain yogurt, heavy cream, or sour cream
About 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. Scoop the potatoes and garlic into a medium (3-quart) saucepan, pour in half of the broth and set over high heat. When the liquid boils, reduce the heat to medium and simmer briskly until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, roast the poblano over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes before a broiler. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let cool until handleable.

3. Rub the blackened bits off the chile and pull out the stem and seed pod. Rinse the chile to remove bits of skin and seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces.

4. When the potatoes are tender, use an immersion blender to puree the soup base (or blend in several batches in a food processor or a loosely covered blender draped with a kitchen towel and return to the pan). Add the remaining half of the broth, the mushrooms, poblano, corn, and epazote (or thyme, if using). Simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat.

5. Just before serving, scoop about 1/2 cup of the hot soup into a small bowl. Mix in the yogurt, cream, or sour cream. Stir the mixture back into the pot, then taste and season with salt, usually about 1 1/2 teaspoons. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with the cilantro. Soup's on.

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