The sun may be setting on summer, but with temperatures in the 80s, I'm not yet in the mood for hearty, day-long simmerings of this and that. Here is a soup that incorporates the last of one of summer's greatest treasures, pairs it with beautiful black beans, and layers in just enough spicy warmth to make it all interesting.
When you arrive at the instruction below to first make corn stock, please don't scream, well what's speedy about THAT?! at me. If you set it up in a slow cooker to simmer during the day while you're elsewhere, by the time you're back home and ready to put together a very quick dinner, the stock will be ready and waiting. Even better, you'll have enough of it that you can save and freeze some for another time when speed is of the essence. —boulangere
FOR THE CORN STOCK
Husks and cobs from 4 ears of corn
3 quarts warm water
5 tepin chiles or 3 japones chiles
FOR THE SOUP
1 quart corn stock (cool and freeze the remainder)
All of the corn kernels
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
2 Anaheim chiles
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 ounces sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh cilantro (optional)
In This Recipe
So. First make the corn stock. It is going to sweeten your soup immeasurably in ways that vegetable or chicken stock can only dream of, and you're going to need that sweetness to balance the peppers' notes.
Tiny Tepin chiles (here is an excellent chile reference guide that would be good to bookmark: http://marxfood.com/how-spicy-are-these-chilies/) have an intense heat, but it is short-lived. Japones chiles pack more of a punch, so use fewer if that is what you have. The chiles are going to deepen the flavor of your stock with a warmth that will be very different from layering them in on the soup end of things.
I stripped the husks (keeping only the clean ones) and removed the kernels the night before, then refrigerated everything. An easy way to remove the kernels without them flying all over the kitchen is to lay the ear flat on its side on a cutting board. Use a knife to slice off a facet of kernels. Turn the ear, repeat until all kernels have been sliced off. Food 52 has an excellent demonstration of the technique.
That done, in the morning, all I needed to do was toss everything in the slow cooker and be on my way. Transfer the husks and cobs to the slow cooker, and add the warm (not hot) water so that it heats up faster (well, as fast as a slow cooker can heat anything up), and set the temperature to High while you get ready to leave. Before you go, reduce heat to low.
When you're ready to make your soup, set a large soup pot in the sink and set a strainer, not a colander in it. Use tongs to lift the cobs and husks out of your stock. Throw them away. Pour the stock through the strainer to remove the fine particulates and chiles, then discard them.
Set the pot over medium heat. Stir in the kernels of corn and the black beans.
Once the onion has been peeled and sliced, arrange the slices on a plate or a baking sheet. Salt both sides and set them aside for about 15 minutes. You want its flavor to be fresh, but not harsh. The salt is going to break down the onion and take the edge off its "bite". By the way, this is a little transformative trick I learned from Chef Andrea Reusig in a conversation with Lynne Rosetto Kasper on The Splendid Table (http://www.splendidtable.org/story/andrea-reusing-key-3). Take a look at her Tomato Salad. You'll never see tomatoes, cucumbers, or onions the same again.
While the onions are resting, roast the peppers. Anaheim peppers are quite mild, and when roasted, develop a wonderful, deep fragrance and flavor. Besides, you have to get the skin off, and honestly, it's the best way. Trim the ends off and split them in half the long way. Remove the seeds and white membranes (they're bitter). There are many ways to roast them, with these being the most common. Lay them skin-side-up on a baking sheet and run them under the broiler until they blister and char. Or hold them over the flame of a gas stove with a pair of tongs (hold the tongs with a hot pad!) until the same effect is achieved. In the end, put the slices into a plastic bag and seal it shut. Within just a few minutes, the steam generated will let you slip the skin off easily.
Set a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add the cumin and coriander seeds. Shake the skillet back and forth to toast the seeds. Once they are fragrant, they're done. If you over-toast cumin, it becomes extremely bitter and will overpower the flavor of whatever you put it in. Remove the skillet from the heat and immediately pour the seeds out into a mortar and pestle to grind them. Add them to the soup pot.
By now, your peppers should be skinless and the onions ready to move on. Chop them both into a 1/4" dice and add them to the soup.
Bring the soup just to a simmer. You want the corn and onions to retain some of their crunch, so taste the soup periodically and remove it from the heat when all the ingredients are just heated through. Just before you remove it from the heat, season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir the smoked paprika (add more, if you wish) into the sour cream along with the lime juice. Chop up a handful of cilantro.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with a splop of the sour cream mixture and some cilantro (or not). Serve with wedges of lime.