Thursday, July 21, 2011

Corn Chowder

It's hotter than stink outside - anyone up for a nice steaming bowl of corn chowder? To be honest, I find the heat takes away my appetite altogether. I shouldn't admit that two nights this week I had a milkshake for dinner. Not one of those low calorie jobs in a can, either. A full-fat assault that you can feel going straight to your hips while you're drinking it.

Corn chowder happened at our house because I had a few ears of sweet corn left over from the weekend, the kids were in bed and David was in Chicago on a business trip. I wanted something fun and/or relaxing to do but didn't feel like reading and I just can't get interested in TV any more. So this is how I chose to amuse myself - by rustling through my fridge and pantry to try to figure out what I can make with ingredients I have on hand.

Turns out I had what I needed to make a half batch of Corn Chowder as advertised on the blog A Full Measure of Happiness under a great post titled 'Shuck It'. This recipe is adapted from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Otherwise known as the people who bring you Cook's Illustrated. My love of the fine folks who are America's Test Kitchen / Cook's Illustrated is well documented on this blog. (Some day I'll write a post on the Christmas I made gravy using a Cook's Illustrated recipe. I could have served it as soup it was so good.) I further adapted this recipe to suit what I had on hand. Here is what you should do, if you're doing things properly and not on a whim. (My changes are included in the recipe below in italics.)

Corn Chowder (Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

6 ears of corn, shucked and rinsed (I used 3 ears, one that had already been cooked and 2 raw)
4 ounces chicken or turkey, cooked and chopped (Didn't have on hand but would make a great addition)
1 T canola or olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove of garlic
3 T all-purpose flour
2 C chicken broth
1 1/2 C skim milk
2 red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (I  used 2 cups of mini white potatoes which I scrubbed and cubed)
2 bay leaves (I have a thing about bay leaves. Not a fan. Yes, there's a reason but this really isn't the time or place to share why - focus on the chowder)
1/2 C heavy cream
1 t minced fresh thyme (Dried will do - it's what I had)
2 T minced fresh parsley (No parsley on hand either, fresh or dried)
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the corn, cut the kernels from two of the ears and set aside.  Grate the remaining ears against the large holes of a box grater into a bowl, and scrape the ears with the back side of a butter knife to get every last bit of pulp.  This helps to release starch from the corn, which will thicken the chowder. (It will also make a bit of a mess if you aren't careful. For the record, I'm not careful.)

Cook the onion in the oil over medium heat until soft, about five minutes.  Add the chicken and garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. (Obviously I just added the garlic) Stir in the flour and cook for one minute, then slowly stir in the broth and milk, scraping up any browned bits.  Add the potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and grated corn.  (I wasn't fully paying attention here because I started watching an episode of Monk on Netflix and got distracted, so added all the corn - grated and cut off of the cob. Didn't appear to ruin the end result). Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the remaining corn kernels and cream. Simmer until the corn kernels are tender but still a bit crunchy, about five minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and add parsley, salt, and pepper to taste before serving.

I really, really liked this chowder. I was pleasantly surprised by how much. It's true that when you cook with ingredients that are in season the food you make tastes that much better. The fresh corn made the chowder nice and sweet and despite my adding the cut kernels before I was meant to, they still had great crunch. I would recommend following the actual recipe instead of plodding along like I did, but I enjoyed what I created nonetheless.

Hot corn chowder isn't likely to make you many friends on a hot Summer night but on a cool August evening it would be very welcome with some nice fresh bread or rolls. As it is, we're under a heat advisory in my neck of the woods. I put up a huge inflatable water slide/ wading pool for the kids in the yard tonight and after checking that no neighbours were within viewing range, took a slide down myself. That's how hot it is - I'm willing to humiliate myself to stay cool. Other ways to stay cool? Remember what the backyard looked like in December:

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