I know I know, I KNOW.
It has been far too long since my last post.
It’s just that summer is in full swing, which means that my weekends are now spent taking trips: bus rides home to go to the beach and laze around in the hammock and train rides to visit my brother to drink home-brewed beer on his roof and help him chickensit a gaggle of rowdy hens and take a leisurely stroll down what Dickens declared to be the most beautiful street in America. Add to that the fact that during the work-week when I am actually here in the city I am trying to take advantage of all of the free outdoor movies and live music in the parks, and finally going to physical therapy (all cooking and no running makes me a very cranky girl), and maybe sort of also looking at apartments and, well… you get the idea. It’s been a bit hectic.
But still, not an excuse. I am sorry I have abandoned you so long.
While I do plead guilty to slacking off on my writing duties, I am happy to say I have not been slacking off in the kitchen! Not in the least. And now, dear reader, you get to reap the benefits.
Remember that corn chowder I was fantasizing about earlier? Well I tackled it… and the weirdest thing happened.
You know how sometimes you sit down with a book or a movie and about fifteen minutes into it you realize you’ve read or seen it before? And that you don’t really want to read or watch it again? That’s what happened with this chowder. After I tasted it I was sure I’d made it before, last year sometime I think… and it was as lackluster then as it was now. It definitely did not live up to the chowder I had in my head. It was sweet, and chowder-ish, but it was not the creamy, wow-inducing, summer-in-a-bowl chowder I knew it could be.
What is this, you may be wondering: you disappear for two weeks and then blather on about some blah, bordering-on-blech rough-draft of a soup that you accidentally made twice? I don’t want to read about that. And I definitely don’t want to eat that.
Nope, probably you don’t. Which is why you’re not going to.
Instead, you’re going to read about a chowder that you will want to eat — more than just eat: you’ll want to shlurp it and chew it and lick your lips after. This is a chowder that is fresh and sweet and creamy enough to compel a second helping; a chowder that is wow-inducing and worthy of making again (and again). I mean, how could something whose main ingredient list is corn, milk, butter, bacon, and onions be anything BUT that?
I repeat: corn, milk, butter, bacon, and onions.
Granted, the addition of butter and bacon did cause the health factor of the earlier chowder to plummet from its reasonably virtuous perch to its current residence, which is somewhere between “a little indulgent” and “positively sinful” (depending on how healthfully you usually eat, and how wicked you consider whole milk).
But at least I said “milk” and not “cream”, right? And really, I must admit that whoever said that bacon makes everything better is absolutely right… at least in this particular instance. I mean, I can think of a few things that might not be improved by the addition of bacon — vegetarian cookbooks, kosher wedding feasts, impending myocardial infarctions — but not too many.
But I digress.
I know, now that I mentioned bacon (bacon!) you’re probably itching for me to wrap things up here so you can get off your butt and into the kitchen… bacon tends to have that effect on people… but I feel I must bring the focus back to the real shining star here: the corn.
As this chowder is really all about showcasing summer corn (and as my nose involuntarily crinkles at the mere mention of frozen vegetables), it goes without saying you should use the best, freshest, sweetest corn you can get your hands on. If you have a farm, farmstand, farmer’s market, or large field of corn near where you live, go there. And while you’re there, see if they have green onions. But if you can’t find onions with the green tops still attached, you can substitute leeks (or if you’re really desperate, a chopped white or yellow onion and a couple of scallion greens) for the green parts. Oh, and that advice about using the best you can find also goes for the bacon: us the thickest-cut, smokiest (and preferably most humanely handled) bacon you can get your little paws on. In fact, it goes for everything. As is the case with most recipes, the quality of the ingredients really determines the quality of the outcome.
You get out of life what you put into it, right? So put in the good stuff — the best.
Creamed Corn Chowder with Summer Onions and Bacon
- 8 ears of corn on the cob
- 7 cups of water
- 6 thick-cut slices of smoky, high-quality bacon
- 1 large or 3 small (spring) white onion(s), bulbs and greens
- 4-5 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3 small red potatoes, diced into very small cubes
- salt & pepper
Making the stock:
First you’ll need to make a stock out of the corn cobs. To do this, bring the 7 cups of water to a low boil in a stock pot.
While the water is heating, peel and shuck the corn, removing all the little silks, and then slice the kernels off the cobs using a sharp knife. Set the kernels aside (in a tupperware in the fridge, as you won’t be needing them for a little while yet). Then remove the onion bulb from the greens. Slice the bulb in half, and set the greens aside (you can store them with the corn).
Snap the now-naked cobs in half, and place them in the pot with the onion halves and a pinch of salt. Simmer, covered, for an hour, then remove cobs and onion pieces (as best you can) and cook uncovered until the liquid is reduced almost by half, probably another hour or two.
Making the chowder:
When the stock is almost done simmering and reducing, you can chop your onion greens (you should have roughly 1 heaping cup), slice your bacon into cubes or 1 inch-thick strips, and finely dice your potatoes. Toss your diced potatoes into the stock for its last minute or two of simmering and then turn off the heat.
Sautee the bacon in a thick-bottom pot until browned and a little crispy at the edges, 3-5 minutes. Scrape it into a bowl and set aside. Without cleaning the pot, put it back on the heat to sautee your onion green until they look somewhat subdued, about 2-3 minutes. Then add in the butter and a few turns of fresh cracked pepper.
As soon as the butter is all melted, sprinkle in the flour and stir everything together to create a pasty, gummy roux. Immediately add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition, so it bubbles and thickens a little each time. (Speaking of deja vu, some of you may recognize this process.)
Once all the milk has been added, add in the raw corn kernels and stir around for about a minute until they just begin to brighten in color. Then ladle or pour in most of your corn stock, leaving just enough stock in the pot to cover the diced potatoes. (You do not want your potatoes to go into the pot with the corn and milk yet.)
If your potatoes are still a little too crunchy at this point, put the pot back on the heat and low-boil for a minute or two until just tender.
Stir to combine the creamed onions and corn with the stock, and then use a hand-blender (or run it through a food processor or blender in batches) until it reaches the desired texture. When you’re sure you’re done pureeing, add the bacon and the potatoes (and any remaining stock, if you need to thin the soup out at all) and stir everything together. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Serve sprinkled with chives, topped with some grilled shrimp or (as we did) alongside some steamed clams and grilled Mako with a spicy cilantro-lime drizzle.