baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

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what an (ig)nite!

Recipe: grilled corn and chilpotle soup

Wednesday night I participated in an event that is rooted in a community I never even knew existed until a few months ago. Ignite is a movement that I have briefly mentioned in the past. I attended my first Ignite Boulder (#5) in July this year. The only reason I know anything about Ignite Boulder, Ignite in general, or the tech startup community in Boulder is because of my friend, Andrew Hyde (follow on twitter @andrewhyde). Ignite started in Seattle in 2006 – it’s an evening of presentations for those with short attention spans: 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. That’s right, 5 minutes. Ignite Boulder (founded by Andrew) is a boisterous, raucous good time. The audience is loudly supportive and the topics range from whimsical to erudite and EVERYTHING in between. The first time I viewed an Ignite online from another city, I was surprised to see how tame, respectful, and quiet the audience was. I think the Ignite Boulder speakers on average are far more dynamic and engaging… certainly the entertainment value is high.

The majority of my online networking has been with people from all over the world because of this blog. But it was only a year ago that I began to interact with the local community when my immune system had recovered enough after the treatments. I think I have more readers in New Zealand than I do in Boulder, Colorado. Or at least, I used to. So last night, I was one of the presenters at Ignite Boulder 6. In fact, I was the first if you don’t count Ef Rodriguez (follow on twitter @pugofwar) who energized the crowd with his awesome warm up talk/singing/performance. I was glad to go first, because then I could truly enjoy the rest of the 13 talks without worrying about my own anymore. I met people who read use real butter, people who I follow on Twitter but never met IRL (in real life), and people I had no idea existed and vice versa – but I’m glad they do, because they’re wonderful and fascinating… like a shiny new mountain bike.

dave burdick (@daveburdick) draws parallels between journalism and “ghost busters”

It was the first time there were more female speakers than male speakers. Sweetness. Overall the talks were terrific. I have too many favorites to call them favorites. There were a few rows of seats reserved in the front for the evening’s speakers and I sat next to a quiet and unassuming gentleman who seemed a little nervous. We introduced ourselves and he told the rest of us he was going last. We all sympathized – that’s hard to do. Lots of pressure and stress, but huge potential. He told me his talk was titled, “Reward and Risk”. I figured it was about pure game theory.

michael brown (@seracfilms) on reward and risk

He’s the president of Serac Adventure Films and put reward and risk in the context of mountaineering. At the end of the presentation, there were three short trailers he played that moved me to tears. You can see the first of these breathtaking trailers Farther Than The Eye Can See at their website.

Helen told me she couldn’t see the live feed of my talk until the last slide, but luckily for all of us, Manisha was in the audience recording the presentation (thank you, sweetie!!). That amazing woman had it on YouTube before the night was out! I’m including a link to my slide presentation because some folks have complained that the slide in the venue was dim. Just remember that Ignite Boulder is LOUD, the audience traditionally participates enthusiastically (and I can hear Nichole giggling nearby in the audio). Definitely watch the video to see how the timing works.

The Jeremy who graciously tossed cookies (hee hee) out to the audience for me at the end of my talk is Jeremy Tanner (@penguin). My Jeremy (@drdarling) was in Australia giving a talk at the same time (he literally missed my talk by a few minutes)! Except his talk was on astrophysics, not food porn.

mountain standard time performed for the intermission

I’m so glad I gave an Ignite presentation because it makes me less of an observer in this community and more of a participant. I think I’ll always be dabbling on the periphery just because I value our quiet mountain life over The Scene in Boulder, but I am meeting fascinating people with big ideas and even bigger hearts. And I dig that.

We are approaching soup weather, but not the kind of soup soup that simmers forever and fills the entire house with steam and the aroma of a deep and rich broth. This is a perfect transitional soup (transitional for the seasons) because it takes advantage of corn as the season begins to wind down and yet it doesn’t require a huge investment in cooking time.

corn corn corn, makes you glad you were born

could it get any sweeter than this?

I had this soup ages ago in New Mexico. My MIL gave me the recipe and in the past decade I’ve made it about once every 3 years. Each time I forget that I made it too hot (spicy) the last time. This was no exception.

cut the kernels off the cob

purée red onions, corn, chilis, spices, and water

I don’t use chilpotles in my cooking much, I just chuck those suckers in. Erring on the side of caution means you can still eat the soup, whereas making it too hot means it sits in a tupperware in the refrigerator until I can doctor it down. The problem is that I made a half batch of the recipe and where it says two to three chilpotles, I used two because I didn’t want it to be weak with just one. That soup is cooling its heels in the back of the refrigerator patiently waiting to peel out the inner lining of someone’s GI tract. I have had neither the time nor the stomach to deal with it just yet.

add cream (i used half and half) to cut through the heat

mixing the relish

I’m pretty sure if I had used one small chilpotle, it would have been fine. I’m not a spice-wimp either, but for some reason it felt like there was a little dragon in my belly… for two days. The soup is pretty rich with so much whipping cream (a quart!?). I opted for a marginally healthier half and half substitution, but I also think adding some homemade chicken broth would broaden the flavor a tad. Then again, the only flavor we could taste after a while was the chili pepper. Seriously, it’s a good soup and you can omit the chilpotle altogether if you’re afraid. A little fear is a healthy thing.

dishin’ it up

Grilled Corn and Chilpotle Soup
[print recipe]
from Blue Corn Cafe and Brewery in Santa Fe

6 medium ears of sweet corn
2-3 chilpotle peppers (use 2 or 1 if you’re skittish)
1 large red onion, minced
2 cups water (perhaps sub in homemade chicken broth here)
4 cups whipping cream (I substitute half and half)
white pepper, to taste
cumin, to taste
1 avocado, peeled and sliced (optional)

modified by my laziness

reserved grilled corn
1 tbsp red bell pepper, diced
1/8 tsp jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsps white vinegar
salt to taste

Shuck the corn and rub with oil and salt. Place on heated grill. Keep an eye on the grilling because the kernels should blacken and pop some, but not entirely. Turn the cobs as the kernels begin browning. When nicely browned, remove from heat and cut the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife (please be careful). Divide the corn in half. Combine half the corn with the onions, chilis, spices, and half of the water or broth in a food processor and pulse until it forms a coarse paste. Add more water (broth) as needed. Leave it a little chunky if that is your desire. Empty the contents into a saucepan and stir in the cream (or half and half). Heat to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. If you want the fullest flavor, reduce the volume of the soup by half. Mix the relish ingredients together in a bowl and cover for at least an hour. Serve the soup with the relish and avocado.

56 nibbles at “what an (ig)nite!”

  1. Jenny says:

    Well it looked like you totally rocked at ignite. I’m so in awe, it looked so scary to stand up and do that!

    The soup looks amazing, its also from my husband’s favourite restaurant. Unfortunately he refuses to eat soup, so he’ll probably miss out on this one!

  2. Jolene says:

    FABULOUS presentation! Thanks for posting. You’re a great speaker. Loved your pics. Hopefully I can make it next month…

  3. Irina@PastryPal says:

    Good, engaging talk. Though I understand all the points you make, what can one do to learn to get better with their food photography other than just practice? I feel like there are technical aspects and things I never thought of that I should be learning.

  4. charlane says:

    yes….this one I’m definitely going to make…with one pepper because I admit I’m a wimp.

    fantastic presentation – very fun.

  5. Vicki says:

    Your Ignite Boulder presentation was a complete delight (and now I feel better about my camera, too…).

    Love corn, love chipotles; that soup is on the list for the weekend. Thanks!

  6. Fran says:

    Loved the talk. From my perspective — on this side of the monitor — you looked and sounded like a pro. Congratulations!

  7. Ignite and White Denim (have nothing to do with each other) — Dave Burdick says:

    […] And she posted a photo of me with a slide, so I’m brazenly stealing it with a link to her wrap-up post and photos of delicious-looking […]

  8. Tartelette says:

    Well you already know what I think but I am going to do it more time: you rocked the house! It was great that you were first with food and porn (eheheh) because you had everybody’s undivided attention!
    I am definitely keeping this recipe on file as MIL has a tendency to drop as many ears of corn as she does bananas!!
    I am no spicy wimp either but I will follow your suggestion!

  9. JessW says:

    That was a great presentation, so engaging! And the soup looks delicious. I made chilpotles this summer so now I have something yummy to try them in!

  10. Melanie says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful Ignite presentation! Yours was one I was eager to see and was not disappointed. I love photography, photographers, and food and I appreciated your passion and tips to make food porn. And it was nice to meet you however so briefly! Consider me a new fan of this blog and novice food pornographer.

  11. Kath says:

    I was one of the many that said ‘I follow you on Twitter and read your blog’ :-)

    So awesome to meet you IRL and see/hear your preso. Look forward to seeing you at many future Ignites :-)

  12. Manisha says:

    And I value you! So much!

  13. Anita says:

    Fantastic job! You’re a natural speaker girl! Hmm, another possible career path for you?:)

  14. mandybird says:

    excellent ignition! :) loved your point about crappy photographers with fancy cameras; some of my husband’s coolest shots are taken with his phone camera.

  15. Andrew Hyde says:

    You were AMAZING!

    So well done, and a front page headline in the local newspaper. Double win.

  16. Ignite Boulder 6 Thoughts | Andrew Hyde - Startups. Start Here. says:

    […] Here is the FANTASTIC Jen Yu. […]

  17. joey says:

    Great job on your talk! I enjoyed watching it and getting to see you in action :) This soup sounds amazing!

  18. Sally says:

    so psyched to catch all the blogs you mentioned in your ignite talk- which was so awesome!
    off to have a new food experience on a premier trip to Mexico tomorrow- –all I can think about it tasting my first mole– or anything other adventurous firsts that await me in Puerto Vallarta– food or otherwise— camera in hand.

  19. Rosa says:

    Great video! You are a wonderful talker with a nice sense of humour!

    That soup looks fantastic!

    Cheers and have an enjoyable weekend,


  20. Hande says:

    Jen, you are just like I thought you would be. Awesome. So nice to see this video of you.

  21. Fiona says:

    That was great fun. And I’m right there with you on the “sucky” thesis regarding DSLRs.

  22. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary says:

    That was wonderful. I loved that you shared the presentation and the slide show with us. I roared about the comment on sucky photographers. I’m a fan of all the bloggers you mentions, but Todd & Diane hold a special place in my heart. So glad you mentioned them. Enjoyed this post so much!

  23. amy says:

    Ooh, I’ve eaten at the Blue Corn Cafe! Long time ago. I was laughing at your rationale on using two chipotles in a half recipe so it wasn’t too watered down — I did the same type of thing a few days ago and PAID FOR IT. Geez. It was tomatillo salsa w/chipotles and the stuff is so hot it’s just sitting in our fridge waiting for more tomatillos so I can water it down some.

    Congrats again on the talk – Ignite sounds like a great event. :)

  24. Ef Rodriguez says:

    You were incredible at Ignite. Absolutely incredible – the perfect segue into a night of creativity, shrewd observation and laughter. We couldn’t have asked for a better showcase of local spirit.

    I finally ate the cookies. And they were delicious. Nom x 3.

  25. Elizabeth says:

    What a great presentation! I loved it. Quick, gritty and to the point.

    Oh and the soup looks fantastic!

  26. Lezel Safi says:

    You freakin’ rock girl!!!! I laughed all the way through your talk and the soup has my mouth watering, wowzers!!! It’s on my must make list now!!! Thanks for keepin’ it real! Congrats!

  27. TheKitchenWitch says:

    You go, girl! So proud of you! And baby, the ab shot turned out…..deliciously! :)

  28. farmerpam says:

    That was great!

  29. Sil says:

    Jen, you’re the best!

    Your presentation was clever, full with humour and just… great.


  30. Eesh says:

    I loved the video. One of the things I love (LOVE!) about your blog is that you keep the styling to a minimum. The food is front and center with minimum props, and usually nothing just for the sake of “pretty”. So, it was funny to see you bring that up in your talk :)

  31. paul merrill says:

    Your presentation was one of the best that night. I’m glad I was there!

    And those pix – make me hungry.

  32. Kristi says:

    I love the Blue Corn Cafe and haven’t been there in ages! I’m excited to make this soup. Well done on your presentation. It was fun to hear your voice!

  33. Sheryl says:

    Great to see you! You’re the Food Porn Queen!

  34. Amy J says:

    This looks yum. Thanks for the tip about the heat – that’s always a bummer when it’s over done, and I like spicy food but overdone does me in.

  35. Denise says:

    Your photos stand up to the amazing food you lovingly create! Btw, I have a file of photos of my dishes from The Kitchen, except they are from my iPhone. I know, don’t cringe. Great Job!

  36. Denise says:

    Oh and your grilled corn made me think of friends that recently used coconut milk and cilantro on their grilled corn, simply delicious.

  37. Christy says:

    Jen your presentation rocked! It was great. Congrats!

  38. Kevin says:

    That is one tasty looking corn soup!

  39. Y says:

    Wish I could’ve heard your presentation! That soup looks so good – LOVE the idea of grilling the corn first.

  40. {kiss my spatula} says:

    grrrreat presentation! and a fabulous sounding soup – can’t wait to give it a try!

  41. Benjamin Chait says:

    Enjoyed the talk—but curious about that photo you took while presenting! :)

  42. Michelle says:

    Wonderful presentation with this soup. Wish I had a bowl right now.

  43. Donna says:

    What a fantastic event and an amazing community. Thank you for sharing.

  44. wing@foodarts says:

    Great to see the powerhouse behind the blog. Excellent presentation and wonderful to put a face to your wonderful site.Many thanks.

  45. Lauren says:

    You did a great job with your presentation…you had me laughing at my computer!

  46. Ignite Boulder 6 blogs/photos « Ignite Boulder says:

    […] Jen Yu (speaker) ”Food porn: behind the lens” @userealbutter and blog post […]

  47. emhuze says:

    Ignite… what a terrific idea. Your presentation was tre swell.

    I’m eating my 2nd bowlful of the corn soup and feeling soooo well fed. I really like the combo flavors of the relish with the soup, definitely a meal in & of itself. Thanks for such deliciousness!

  48. Caitlin says:

    Grilled corn – sigh. I’m in love.

    And I know I already congratulated you, but – awesome talk! I am so glad Manisha managed to record it for those of us who *ahem* had kickball that night :P

  49. Mrs Ergül says:

    The grilled corns are calling out to me!!!!! Geez! I have never had or seen a soup cool like that here!

  50. jenyu says:

    Thanks all for your sweet comments on my Ignite talk. It was a ton of fun once the talk finally got started (wasn’t so fun just before!) :)

    Irina – I think the key is to practice and then in the course of your practicing questions will come up and you can research those on the web or in books quite easily. Let your curiosity and mistakes guide the questions. But yes, you have to be willing to do the homework to learn the technical details. If photography were easy – well, everyone would be awesome at it.

    Melanie – thank you!

    Kath – great to finally meet you too. I’ve heard much about you in the twitterverse.

    Manisha – xxoo You are the best! Thanks for taping it, love.

    Andrew – all thanks to you, sir. xxoo

    Hande – one day, we HAVE to meet in person :) I guess that means I should find tix to Italy?? :)

    Lisa – Todd and Diane are amazing people. I love them. Even if they weren’t awesome food bloggers/photogs, I would still love them just as much :)

    Amy – I know, right? How dangerous can one more little chilpotle be?! VERY ;)

    Ef – *heart* you!

    Paul – thanks for coming to Ignite!! Hope to see you at the next one.

    Denise – I think if someone who loves food isn’t tempted to take pictures of dinner at The Kitchen, then there is something seriously wrong with that person :) Glad you took some!!

    Benjamin – ha ha, it was out of focus b/c I was running a few seconds behind!! :)

    Caitlin – I hope your team won!!

  51. oneshotbeyond says:

    impressive flavor combo here!

  52. Grilled corn and chilpotle soup « Gluten Free Pumpkins says:

    […] · Leave a Comment Or rather “grilled” corn and chilpotle soup. PLEASE see the original recipe on use real butter (which is one of my favorite food porn sites) as mine came out quite […]

  53. Nicisme says:

    Great talk, lovely to hear you!

  54. Mona says:

    Your presentation rocked!!

  55. Kim says:

    Wow, Jen, you were right. The Boulder audience is so much more energetic than Seattle! Great talk. I needed a bit of encouragement for my food photography this week. It is such a challenging activity!

  56. Kaitlin says:

    I can’t wait to make this this summer. I don’t know how I passed over this recipe when you first posted it – it sounds and looks incredible!

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