The Gravy: In the Kitchen with Jazz Singer Cindy Scott

I like to cook. If I choose to cook, I try to make it very big. Today, I’m cooking cream of poblano pepper soup that I learned how to make in Mexico when I was on tour there. It’s become one of my signature dishes because it’s just delicious. I go to Mexico once or twice a year, a couple of weeks every time. I have a network of musicians that I work with, and a lot of venues that I play, and every time I have more. It’s a beautiful place to play. Also, my parents retired there 20 years ago, so I go to visit. I have a very good friend who’s from Mexico City and one time when I was down there for Christmas he said, ‘Why don’t you come to Mexico City and we’ll do some gigs together?’ and that was the start of that. He took me to some restaurant and he ordered this soup for me, and it was like the best thing I’d ever put in my mouth. So, I asked his grandmother for the recipe.

Cindy Scott, The Gravy, Elsa Hahne photo

Check out jazz singer Cindy Scott's recipe for cream of poblano pepper soup below (photo: Elsa Hahne)

I grew up in Baton Rouge. My husband, actually, is from a Cajun family, so he’s a fabulous cook and, usually, if we’re doing Cajun or New Orleans food, I kind of just find something else to do and let him do everything. But, I can make a mean gumbo. I’m a soup person. I really like to make soups, and I make them a lot. And gravies and sauces and things like that. I like that. I’m good at that. I’m not afraid of the sauce. I guess that could be interpreted a few different ways. [laughs]

It actually doesn’t take that long to make this dish. You can make it in under an hour if you have the ingredients. I grill the peppers on the grill for about 10 minutes until brown on the outside, but if you accidently char the outside, it’s not that big a deal because you’re going to peel off this outer layer of skin anyway. Basically, the skin, as you see, is loose. It just comes off. And, if some gets left on, it doesn’t matter. And depending on how spicy you like it, you can leave the insides intact and include the seeds, but if you do, it’s going to be quite a bit spicier. I choose to get rid of that stuff. The recipe calls for three poblano peppers, but I like it to taste more like the peppers, so I use four. You just dice the peppers. There’s no science to it. The soup is going to be puréed, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like. I use my plain, old, cheap blender that I make cocktails in and it works great. You can use a food processor, or you can use a regular blender, or you can use an immersion blender, but you purée it all the way.

This soup is very rich. It’s got cheese in it and Mexican sour cream, which is a very specific thing. It’s just a really hearty, delicious soup and it’s great in the wintertime. It’s fantastic. It’s also flexible. You can use different ingredients—whatever you have—but you have to have poblano peppers. Sometimes people put potato to help beef up the stock, and sometimes people put corn. I’ve made it both ways, but today I’m using potato.

This time, I bought Crema Hondurena, Honduran-style sour cream. But, it’s the same in Mexico. They have it all over Central America. Different brands taste a little bit different, but they’re generally the same. It’s heavy, and it’s not really sour like our sour cream. It’s kind of a heavy cream that has a softer and creamier taste to it. I mean—I can eat this stuff with a spoon! I don’t recommend that, but I can do it. It’s delicious. I’d be 300 pounds real fast if I did that everyday. When I buy it—which is not that often because it’s really rich—I have to taste it right out of the thing. I have to. I can’t help it.

I’m telling you, this soup is the most delicious stuff ever. It’s better than love [laughs]. I made it last night for some friends. And there was a tiny bit left over this morning, so I had it for breakfast [laughs].”

Recipe: Cindy Scott’s Cream of Poblano Pepper Soup
4 poblano peppers
2 onions, diced
1/2 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup grated white Mexican cheese (or Monterey Jack)
1 cup crema fresca (Mexican or Honduran sour cream)
Black pepper
Chopped cilantro

Grill peppers whole until brown on the outside; cool; remove skin, seeds and veins; dice.

Sauté onion and carrot in butter and olive oil until soft. Add peppers, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add potato and stock. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Purée soup in a blender. Pour back into pot, adding cheese and crema fresca. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with cilantro.