A hearty chowder with layers of flavour built upon the charred corn and miso.
Charring corn on a grill or under a broiler develops flavours not evident in corn that has been boiled or steamed. The dehydration of the corn intensifies the flavours. Also, the Maillard reaction introduces new flavours. According to Wikipedia, the Maillard reaction “is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavour”. From bread to a seared steak, from black garlic to chocolate, the Maillard reaction is most definitely the cook’s friend.
Worth checking out on delectabilia is another use of charred corn. The charred corn puree in this speck wrapped salmon recipe delivered a creamy yet complex complement to the succulent salmon.
Miso, essentially, is fermented soybeans. The soybeans are mixed with salt and koji-inoculated rice, barley, or rye. This mixture is left to ferment for months – the longer the fermentation, the deeper the flavour. Miso is packed with umami, a savoury, earthy taste that enhances any flavours that it is combined with.
Though we could use instant dashi (hondashi) for this charred corn and miso chowder, it really is better with the real thing. Using hondashi instead of real dashi is like using stock cubes instead of making a real stock yourself.
Bringing it all together
Too often, soups and chowders have quite a uniform flavour because all the ingredients have been cooked together. In this recipe, though, most of the ingredients are cooked separately and only combined at the end. The result is a mouthful of distinct tastes – the corn, the red pepper, the green chilli, the potato, the mushrooms, all enhanced by the umami flavour infused by the miso and dashi.
The bread pictured with the charred corn and miso chowder is homemade focaccia. It was so easy, fun, and so delicious.
Charred corn and miso chowder
- 1 onion finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic finely diced
- 1 red pepper
- 2 potatoes medium sized yukon golds preferred
- 2 green chillis the long mild variety
- 3 cobs sweet corn
- 150 g fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 30 g butter
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 3 cups dashi hondashi will be an adequate substitute in this recipe
- 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
- 3 Tbsp yellow miso
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- Salt to taste
- focaccia bread
- Preheat the oven to 180 degC
- Wash, halve, and remove the pith and stalk from the red pepper.
- Smear the red pepper with olive oil and roast for 40 minutes.
- Dice the mushrooms and lay on a parchment paper on a baking tray. Drizzle with a Tbsp of oil and a Tbsp soy sauce over the mushrooms and put the tray in the oven with the red pepper. The mushrooms will take just 15 minutes, so take them out before the red pepper and set aside.
- Dice the red pepper into 5x5mm pieces and set aside.
- Peel and dice the potatoes and cut into 5x5mm pieces.
- Simmer the potato in water until tender. Drain and set aside.
- Cook the corn cobs over a grill until starting to char. Ideally use charcoal as it adds a great smoky flavour. Alternatively, use the broiler.
- Allow to cool a little.
- Sauté the diced onion in 30 g butter until starting to brown.
- Add the diced garlic and sauté until you get the wonderful garlic fragrance (a couple of minutes).
- Add the flour and stir into the butter and onion. Keep stirring until it becomes a light brown colour.
- Slowly pour in the dashi and vegetable stock (or chicken stock).
- Cut the kernels off the corn cobs.
- Add half the corn kernels and half the potato to the soup, together with the miso and soy sauce.
- Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, use a normal blender.
- Strain to remove any remaining solid bits.
- Add the remaining potato and corn, the diced roasted red pepper, mushrooms, and the diced green chilli. Keep a few mushrooms and chilli slices for a garnish.
- Bring up to a simmer before serving.
- Serve with a good focaccia or sourdough bread.