Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Weekly Recipe #60: Lime-Spiked Corn Chowder

By Sarah Leonard, Open Arms Chef

There are two secrets to an award-winning vegetarian soup: butter and heavy cream.

To build real depth of flavor in a vegetarian soup requires a lot of layering of flavors you might usually associate with meat products—roasting, smoking, grilling, etc. We used roasted garlic and grilled fresh corn to emulate a smoky, meaty flavor in this vegetarian chowder. The lime juice at the end really helped to brighten up the richness of the butter and cream.

Although this soup is fantastic vegetarian, you could also begin by rendering the fat out of some bacon and use that to sauté your vegetables instead of the butter. Remove the bacon and reserve, crumbling over the top of the soup as a garnish.

Lime-Spiked Corn Chowder
(Makes approximately 5 quarts)

1 head of garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
8 cobs of corn
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. salt
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery
4 cups milk
8 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
Zest from 1 lime
3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
Salt and white pepper to taste
3 cups diced red bell pepper
½ cup chopped cilantro

Roast Garlic:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top ½ inch of the head of garlic, exposing the individual cloves. Drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic, cut side up, with aluminum foil and roast until the clove of garlic is tender and golden brown. Squeeze garlic out of skins and reserve.

Grill Corn:
Coat the cobs of corn lightly with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill over high heat to char the kernels. The cobs should be somewhere around 50-60% charred. Remove from grill and let cool. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and reserve both.

Make Soup Base:
Melt the stick of butter in a large stockpot. Sweat half of the onions and celery in butter until softened. Meanwhile, blend roasted garlic with enough of the milk to make a smooth mixture. Add to vegetables in pot along with vegetable stock and remaining milk. Add corn cobs to stockpot. Let simmer for 1-3 hours, depending on how long you have. Let cool completely.

Finish Soup:
Strain the vegetables out of the soup base and discard them. In a heavy stockpot melt 2 tbsp. butter. Sautee remaining onions and celery just until softened. Add 2 tbsp. flour and continue cooking over medium heat for approximately 7 minutes, or until the flour loses its raw flavor. Slowly stir in the soup base, incorporating it into the veggie/flour mixture evenly. Add the lime zest and reserved corn kernels. Bring to a simmer. Add the heavy cream and bring back up to a very light simmer. Add lime juice, salt and white pepper to taste. You will know you have added enough salt when the lime flavor really pops. Stir in the red peppers and cilantro to serve.

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