Roasted Corn & Tomatillo Soup

It was another week, another 2 pounds of tomatillos from the CSA. For once, I felt inspired about the tomatillos since instead of making my usual batch of enchiladas, I thought I’d branch out into making tostadas. I told John about my idea, excited about the possibility of making refried black beans and how delicious they would be smeared on a crispy, yellow corn tortilla then topped with juicy, grilled chicken and my salsa. So imagine my surprise when John turned his nose up like he’d stepped in one of our dog’s “gifts” in the backyard. Apparently he was feeling my usual bout of green salsa ennui.

I was a little miffed, and handed over responsibility for dealing with the tomatillos to him, and for two days, I stuck to it, reminding him that I’d washed my hands of those green monsters. Then t.v. saved John. A travel show’s feature of a restaurant’s recipe for roasted corn soup gave me sudden inspiration. Instead of salsa, I’d roast corn kernels and carrots in the oven then combine them with tomatillos and pasilla peppers that were charred under the broiler. I’d let these flavors meld together in a bath of chicken broth then spice things up with cumin, coriander, and oregano. I imagined that roasting the carrots and corn would concentrate their sugars, yielding sweetness to counterbalance the smoky tomatillos and peppers.

So I put plan into action. I placed the tomatillos and the split peppers on my broiler pan and put them under the broiler. While they charred, I shucked the corn and sawed the kernels from the ears adding them to diced up orange and yellow carrots. I spread those out on a foil lined baking sheet, drizzled them with canola oil and sprinkled it all with salt and pepper. I then got ready to put the sheet in the oven and… nothing. Apparently that last broil was the final death knell for our little range. The damn oven refused to turn on anymore. I screamed my annoyance to no one in particular, and frantically kept pushing the oven heat buttons hoping that it would magically work but to no avail. My saving grace– the stove top still worked. Once calm, I gamely pulled out my largest cast iron skillet, added the corn and carrots, and used the dry heat of the pan to lightly caramelize them.

In the end, you would never have guessed that cooking this soup had been such a frustrating process. This soup blended up thickly and was beyond delicious. The peppers added a subtle heat as well as the smoky flavor I’d anticipated, while the tomatillos gave a slightly sour taste that balanced the sweetness of the corn and carrots, their flavors concentrated so that it was like tasting summer. John made up for his earlier transgression against my rule over the kitchen by adding hot sauce to the soup, giving it the acid that it had lacked, when I was too tired from the earlier oven ordeal to figure out how to make the soup taste better. Served with slices of creamy, buttery and cold avocado along with a sprinkle of cilantro provided that perfect contrast in temperatures as well as a refreshing bite to cut through the creamy soup. Try this out if you’re looking for a southwestern twist to your regular corn chowder.

Note: If you don’t have a cast iron skillet but do have a working oven, my original plan was to bake the corn and carrots in a 400 degree F oven for 20-35 minutes, or until the corn kernels have some brown specks. Be sure to mix the corn and carrots occasionally while roasting. And on a personal note– for any friends who are reading this post, no worries. This was the old range, not the shiny new replacement. 🙂

  • 3 medium pasilla peppers
  • 1 pound tomatillos, peeled and rinsed
  • canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed from husks
  • 2 medium orange carrots, diced
  • 2 medium yellow carrots, diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic, minced (yields about 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (and seeded if you’re a wuss)
  • 2 medium stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • fresh lime juice, to taste
  • fresh cilantro and avocado slices for garnish

Heat broiler pan about 5 inches below the broiler heating element. While the pan heats, place the tomatillos in a bowl and drizzle with a 1/2 tablespoon of canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat each tomatillo. Cut the top and bottom tips off of the pasilla peppers, remove the seeds, then cut a slit down the pepper from top to bottom so that you can flatten it out into one large strip. Brush the skin side of each pepper “strip” with canola oil. Place tomatillos and the peppers (skin side up) on the hot broiler pan and broil until tops are charred, about 10-12 minutes. Place peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

While peppers and tomatillos roast, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat (or see note if you wish to try using your oven to use it for roasting the carrots and corn.) Mix together the corn and carrot pieces with about 1/2 tablespoon of canola oil and a little salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the skillet and cook until corn is speckled with brown spots, about 18-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, jalapeno, and garlic and saute until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of masa harina and stir together. Let this cook for about 1 minute before adding the chicken stock. Add the tomatillos, corn, and carrots. Peel the charred skin off the cooled peppers then dice them and add this to the pot as well. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and oregano then bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, before adding the 1/4 cup of cream. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth (or alternatively, add no more than 2 cups of the soup mixture to a blender at a time, pureeing while holding the lid down firmly with a towel.) Take a taste and adjust the flavors with lime juice, hot sauce, and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with a couple of slices of avocado and a sprinkle of cilantro.

CSA Count: 6

Tomatillos, orange carrots, yellow carrots, sweet onion, jalapeno, cilantro


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