Last weekend, Eric and I trekked up to Alexandria, Minnesota, for the annual Carlos Creek Winery Grape Stomp Festival. We spent Saturday working at his parents’ new business venture - a roasted corn stand - the perfect way to embrace the end of sweet corn season.
Eric manned the roasting and husking, while I was privileged to baptize the corn in a vat of melted Millerville butter on the way to its final resting place. I won’t lie to you. I think I ate 7 ears of corn that day. Seven. Ears. Of. Corn.
About halfway through the day, Eric and I took a break to grab a glass of wine and some lunch. We made our way over to the grape stomp competition just in time to see this group of ladies in wedding gowns make their way into the competition tent. Naturally, I started taking rapid-fire pictures like a crazy stalker. One of the women saw me and, perhaps thinking that I was an official photographer for the event due to the number of pictures I was taking, asked if we’d take a ton of pictures and email them later in the week. We gladly obliged.
These women from the Special Event Bridal Boutique made their way onto the stage. The contestant on the stage stomps, while the person standing on the ground uses their hand to guide the juice towards the hole in the bin, which then empties into a pitcher beneath. They stomped their hearts out…
The crowd wasn’t sure whether to laugh and take pictures or to duck and cover.
Here is what I learned throughout the day:
1. Maple butter spread on salted corn will make you weep for joy.
2. Minnesotans will gladly brave a blustery fall day for delicious, local wine.
3. I’m not above pairing a crisp Cabernet with a basket of deep-fried cheese curds.
It was a really fun event, one that I hope to go back to next fall. When we got home the next day, with windburned cheeks from the day before, nothing felt more right than soup. We had been given some of the leftover corn from the stand, and all I could think about on the way home was this corn soup with chilies recipe that I’d made several times last fall.
This soup is straight-up fall goodness in your mouth. The sweetness of the corn and cream is perfectly balanced by the kick of the chilies. It simmers into a slightly thickened chowder, the kind that is perfect for dunking pieces of toasty garlic bread into. Make this soup tonight, and savor every kernel of sweet corn season.
(recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
(Yields 6-8 servings)
The first few times I made this soup, I felt it was a little too sweet for soup. So I added a few ingredients and swapped several others to balance out that sweetness. I used red onion instead of yellow, added 3 cloves of garlic, and threw in one gigantic bell pepper to round out the flavor (and color!). I also doubled the bacon because when is more bacon ever a bad thing? I added 1 more cup of shucked corn because I have so much that it is taking over my refrigerator. Finally, I used diced fresh jalapenos instead of canned green chilies because I had them around. I liked the heat the jalapenos added to the soup, but if you're not big on spice, stick with the canned chilies.
VEG TIP: Leave out the bacon and use vegetable broth to keep this vegetarian. Without the bacon, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil as you begin to cook the onions and garlic.
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (or smaller)
2 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6-7 ears corn, shucked (about 5 cups)
2 whole chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, finely diced*
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (or 2 for extra heat!) [or one 4 oz. can diced green chilies]
4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt (more to taste)
3 tbsp. corn meal or masa (I used corn meal)
1/4 c. water
1 large bell pepper, sedded and roughly chopped
Add bacon pieces (if using) to a pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Cook for about 4 minutes.
Add the diced onion and garlic and stir for another 3-4 minutes.
Add butter and melt it, then add the corn. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
Add both kinds of chilies (or chilies and jalapenos) and stir.
Pour in chicken broth and cream. Ad salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
Combine cornmeal (or masa) with water in a small bowl. Stir to combine, then pour into the soup. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. If soup seems too thin, add another tablespoon of cornmeal ormasa/water mixture and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
5 minutes before the soup is finished simmering, add the chopped bell peppers.
We cracked just the slightest bit of black pepper over it (not too much, or it's overly peppery!) Serve this with a crusty bread - toasted garlic bread is tops - and enjoy!
P.S. I think this might be good garnished with some chopped cilantro. If anyone tries it, let me know how it goes!
*Pour what remains of the can of chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce into a ziplock bag, close the bag and make the peppers and sauce lay in a thin, flat layer. You can freeze the whole bag and just break off what you need for next time.