Summer Corn Chowder

summer corn chowder

This post will be short and sweet….just like the brief window for summer corn. The recipe comes from Martha’s Stewart’s PBS show “Cooking School”, which if you haven’t seen it, is masterfully produced. Martha’s instruction is concisely detailed and her commentary is informative in an approachable way. I personally love how relaxed and focused the show is versus the hyper, over-the-top gimmicky food shows that seem to be flowing out of the TV lately.

I hadn’t intended to post this soup (as evidenced by the image drought) and for the life of me I’m not sure why. However, I quickly changed my tune after spooning it out of the pot for a taste test. It’s a simple chowder. Fresh, sweet and composed of minimal ingredients so as not to overshadow the corn’s delicate flavor. It’s creamy because it’s been mostly pureed, although it is finished with a minimal amount of half and half. Right before serving, snip some fresh chives for garnish- their oniony zip will nicely contrast the sweetness of the corn.

If you are looking for a complete meal idea, I made Garlic Roasted Potatoes with Spinach and Eggs to go along side. Almost forgot to mention….this soup smells like fresh plucked corn and its gorgeous pale yellow hue simply beckons. It’s a treat to all your senses. Please breath it in before you take that first bite…it will only make it better.

Summer Corn Chowder

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.

I wasn’t happy with the fresh corn in the market, so I begrudglingly used frozen. I know it’s a perfectly acceptable substitute and my end result wasn’t compromised in the least, but I really wanted to shuck corn! Let me know when you make this and I’ll come by and do the honors.

Ingredients

  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 cups white onion, diced (about 1 large)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme wrapped in cheesecloth and bound with twine
  • 5 cups yellow corn (frozen or fresh)
  • 4 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 1 lb red new potatoes, cut into 1/2" discs
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh chives for serving

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven (I used a 6.75 quart) over medium-low heat.
  2. Add onion, thyme, corn and season with salt.
  3. Cook for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Do not let the onions brown.
  4. Pour in the stock, add the potatoes and then bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Extract the thyme and discard.
  7. Remove 3-4 cups of the soup and set aside.
  8. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
  9. Return the reserved soup to the pot along with the half and half. Stir and gently heat.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Serve with freshly snipped chives.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/07/21/summer-corn-chowder/

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Pozole Verde

tomatillos for Pozole Verde

I am willing to bet that even if you have remote familiarity with hominy you probably haven’t cooked it, much less tasted it.  Personal experience aside, there is simply a lack of conversation on the topic. Recently “Pozole” has been lurking around the culinary edges, but it’s always a filler recipe, never the main event. For all I knew maybe there was a good reason….like tasting like a soggy tortilla! I suspect, however, that because it is a regional dish with an uncommon ingredient, it is simply passed over for it’s American cousin Chicken Noodle Soup. Pozole is a Mexican soup (or stew) anchored by corn (that’s the hominy, how uncommon is that?) that can be prepared white, red or green (ironically the colors of the Mexican flag) depending on the sauce or lack thereof.  As a sign of solidarity with my new home- ripe with vibrant south of the border influence- I decided to whip some up sooner than later.  I quickly learned this is not something you just “whip” up……..

hominy for Pozole Verde

As with most ingredients, I figured I should skip canned hominy and go straight for the “good stuff”…meaning the dried kernels to ensure a far more interesting texture and to get an actual corn flavor.  A quick two-second taste test had proved that the waxiness of the canned hominy would probably ruin just about any dish. Rancho Gordo (I know, again with Rancho Gordo…but for good reason, their products are superior) sells prepared hominy that all you need to do is soak, simmer and add to your soup.  Being a Pozole virgin, I scoured the internet for a recipe and ended up with flashbacks to those annoying third grade comprehension tests…which of the following does not belong?……there were throngs of chicken soup recipes that appeared to use an ingredient template that simply stated “insert hominy here” and then called it Pozole. The lack of authenticity was staggering, not to mention transparent even to a Pozole novice like myself. Yet, after playing detective and eliminating the counterfeits, I embarked on my interpretation of Patti Jinich’s Verde version and ….oh my goodness!

I mean, how has this soup not been given its due credit? It’s a powerhouse of flavor and incredibly rich without any heavy, oily fats. It’s light, but unbelievably satisfying because of the chicken and hominy. Sure it does take some time to make, but the commitment is well worth it.

Pozole Verde

Pozole Verde

Adapted from Patti Jinich.

Mexican oregano has a citrusy edge to it versus the peppery qualities most of us are used to in the Mediterranean oregano associated with Italian cooking. Find it at my favorite spice shop! By the way, the plethora of toppings are suggestions……don’t feel like you have to build a mountain of garnishes atop your soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried hominy
  • 3 lbs skin-on bone-in chicken breasts (about 3 large)
  • 2 quarts homemade chicken broth
  • Verde (Green) Sauce
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed
  • 1 large jalapeño, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 large poblano
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 TBSP canola oil
  • 2 TBSP dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro
  • Toppings
  • Limes for squeezing
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
  • Avocado, cut into chunks
  • Ancho Chili powder, a pinch sprinkled over each bowl
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Scallions, thinly sliced
  • Tortilla chips, crushed
  • Sour cream dollops

Instructions

  1. Place hominy in a small stock pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Soak overnight.
  2. Drain the hominy and then return it to the pot and cover with water by 5 inches. Over high heat bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 3 hours or until hominy is tender and has begun to open up or “bloom”. Season with 1 TBSP kosher salt and cool in the liquid.
  4. In the meantime, roast the chicken breasts. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up). Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45-55 minutes until the juices run clear (length of time will depend on the thickness of the breasts.) When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and set aside.
  5. Next, position the oven rack on the highest groove and turn the broiler to HI. Place the poblano on the rack and roast for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes in order to char all sides. It will become beautifully blistered with black flavor-packing blemishes. Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it cool completely, then peel off the skin and pull out the stem. Give it a rough chop and set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, make the verde sauce. Place tomatillos, garlic and jalapeño in a 4 quart saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  7. After about 10 minutes the color of the tomatillos will no longer be bright green, but dull. You want them to be soft but not falling apart. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid, drain and set aside.
  8. Place the pepitas in a small skillet (I used an 8”) over medium heat and toast for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until they have lightly browned.
  9. Place the toasted pepitas in a blender and chop until finely ground. Then add the tomatillo mixture, garlic, onion, roasted poblano, salt and reserved liquid. Puree until smooth.
  10. In a large pot (I used 6.75 qt Dutch oven) heat the oil over medium heat.
  11. Add the tomatillo sauce from the blender and simmer for 18-20 minutes, stirring the entire time. The goal is for the sauce to thicken and deepen in flavor. The color will become darker as the process occurs.
  12. Combine the cilantro, Mexican oregano and 1 cup of broth in the blender. Puree until smooth and mix into the verde sauce.
  13. To the pot, add the hominy, shredded chicken and chicken broth. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.
  14. Taste for seasonings.
  15. Serve with toppings.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/09/05/pozole-verde/

Note:

Tomatillos are tart, almost citrusy and should be firm to the touch when you buy them. The fruit is encased in a husk, which should NOT be dry and brittle when you take them home from the store. When you remove the husks you’ll find the tomatillos to be sticky- that’s normal. Just rinse under running water and dry with a paper towel.

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In Honor of Catherine, By Way of Sara

Even if you don’t live in North Carolina there is a good chance you are familiar with Sara Foster.  She is an award-winning cookbook author that celebrates simple, fresh, southern food AND rubs elbows with the likes of Martha Stewart and photographer Peter Frank Edwards. For those of us fortunate to be in her backyard she has two gourmet market cafés called “Foster’s Market”. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel like you are part of something and leaves you with a constant hankering for more. I’m actually scheming at this very moment on how, in the shortest time possible, to get my hands on one of her thick, perfectly measured nut-to-batter, chewy, deep chocolate brownies. I always prefer the savory to sweet, but these fat, fudgy squares that she wraps in basic no-fuss plastic cling could make me change my ways. Anyway to get back on track and off my personal food obsessions, Foster’s serves homemade food, but with a sophisticated undertone and always with a devotion to local ingredients.  Thankfully, Sara shares many of her café recipes in her enticing cookbooks and on her website.

Years ago I started making her Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder and shared it with my colleague, Catherine, who always delighted me with her enthusiasm to taste whatever I toted in that day.  It’s her favorite for a reason.  If you never quite got the “layers of flavor” thing, this is your chance to experience it without having to concentrate and analyze what you are supposed to be “experiencing”. It’s as if one spoonful just keeps going and going and going, working hard for your enjoyment.  As I imagine Sara Foster would tell you, this soup is best made with the freshest produce you can get your hands on.  Please, never ever make it with jarred roasted red peppers. They are so incredibly easy to prepare yourself and play a key role in making this soup special. There are quite a few techniques for roasting peppers, but I prefer the oven for “forgettaboutit” ease and no mess. You’ll be pleased with their fresh, firm, sweetness over the mushy jarred version.

It has been almost two years since Catherine and I have enjoyed regular morning coffee and although making this soup in her honor brings a twinge of sadness, it also brings me closer to her gentle, kind spirit.

That is Catherine on the left!
Photo by Paul Franitza.

Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder

Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder

Adapted from Sara Foster’s “The Foster’s Market Cookbook”.

Ingredients

  • 5 TBSP of unsalted butter, divided
  • A few drops of olive oil
  • 2 large leeks (about 4 cups)
  • 1 yellow onion, medium dice
  • 4 ribs of celery (2 cups), medium dice
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Kernels from 6 ears of corn, divided (never buy pre-husked corn because without them the kernels have a tendency to dry out)
  • 3 fresh roasted red bell peppers, peeled, cored, seeded and medium chopped, divided
  • 3 tsp of Kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP fresh minced thyme
  • 2 TBSP fresh minced parsley
  • 1 cup of half & half

Instructions

  1. To roast the peppers, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Make sure your oven is clean, the exhaust van is on and ventilation is good….otherwise your kitchen is apt to cloud with smoke and your fire alarm will shriek. Consider yourself warned! Place the peppers on a baking sheet and use your hands to rub them with a few drops of olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, turning about every 10 minutes so you get a char on all sides. They will become beautifully blistered with black flavor-packing blemishes. This is good! Transfer them to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. They will continue to cook and concentrate their sugars. Let them cool completely then peel their skins off, pull out the stem and remove the core and seeds. Give them a rough chop, reserving ½ cup in a separate bowl and setting the rest aside.
  2. Trim the leeks so that you have only the white and light green parts, then slice in-half lengthwise and cut ¼” half moons. Rinse like crazy in a colander using your fingers to move them around and around to ensure all the dirt is removed.
  3. Cut the kernels from the cob reserving 2 cups in a separate bowl. Set the rest aside.
  4. Melt 3 TBSP butter in a large pot (I use a round 9-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven) over medium heat.
  5. Reduce to medium-low, add the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent- about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  6. Add the leeks and celery and cook for another 10 minutes. You want the celery tender. Stir occasionally.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. It will become beautifully fragrant.
  8. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  9. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, melt 2 TBSP of butter over medium heat and sauté the 2 cups of reserved corn with a ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  10. To the soup pot, add remaining corn (not the corn from the skillet), roasted red peppers and any accumulated juices (continue to reserve the 1/2 cup for later), 2 ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and thyme and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat and add the parsley.
  12. Cool slightly and using an immersion blender puree for a rustic consistency.
  13. Add the corn from the skillet, the ½ cup reserved roasted red peppers and half & half.
  14. Taste for seasoning.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/15/in-honor-of-catherine-by-way-of-sara/

 

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Corn, Sweet, Corn

 I’ve simply never met a corn chowder recipe that I didn’t have to take out for a test spin. It’s always welcome in our bowls and is one of the few things my husband requests. Over the years we’ve enjoyed Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder, Pumpkin Chicken Corn Chowder, Potato Corn Chowder….I promise I’ll share some of these soon! I try to keep this love affair seasonal, but sometimes I do use frozen kernels. But really, when fresh sweet corn is available you just feel summer and without knowing it find yourself in childhood memories of summer meals when the cook yells, “Can someone run down to _______________ (insert your favorite farm stand) and get a few ears”?

Soon you’re cruising down the road and the wind blowing through the windows is bringing with it that sweet, grassy, summer fragrance that I swear sticks to your skin until Labor Day. In minutes you arrive at the cart/wagon/stand/pick-up and grab the perfect dozen, drop a couple of bucks in the padlocked box and head home to save dinner.

When sweet corn from Florida showed up earlier this summer at Whole Foods, I couldn’t resist. Living in North Carolina, it had been a little too early for me to be reliving childhood memories and we were overdue for a corn chowder feast!  A new recipe, of course.  This one from Ina Garten. I served it with jalapeño cheddar corn bread  (my husband’s all time favorite cornbread because it’s a bit sweet and not as dense as most)  and called it a meal, but for a little protein kick you can always add shredded chicken or my favorite, seared scallops or grilled shrimp.

My husband barely came up for air until reaching the bottom of his bowl, but along the way he did offer a few emphatic “mmm’s”. Glad he liked it because it was dinner the next night….and the one after that.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 12 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 lbs medium-dice red boiling potatoes, unpeeled
  • 10 cups fresh corn kernels (10 ears)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (9 quart) over medium heat and cook the bacon until crisp, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve.
  3. Add the onions and butter to pot and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  4. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes adding the fresh corn halfway through. After 20 minutes the potatoes should be tender and the corn will have a slight crunch.
  6. Add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  7. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each bowl with bacon and grated cheese.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/06/corn-sweet-corn/

Notes

  1. I use yellow corn because I prefer the color it lends to the soup.
  2. To remove the silk from the cob, run a dry paper towel from top to bottom. It’s a handy little trick that I think I picked up from a Bon Appétit interview with Gwyneth Paltrow .
  3. I’ve tried every gadget imaginable to remove the kernels from the cob, but all you need is a sharp knife and a large cutting board. Lay the corn on the board, bring your knife close to the cob and cut straight down the length of the cob. This will yield a flat kernel-free surface that you can rotate to lay flat on the board and cut another side of the cob. You will make the cut four times. After the cuts are made stand the cob up and use your knife to cut close to the cob to clean off all the bits of kernels that maybe you didn’t get with the initial cuts. There’s a lot of milky, sweetness in those last bits that you want to capture.
  4. This recipe calls for turmeric, which is a peppery, slightly ginger-like spice. It calls for so little that you can’t really taste it, so I don’t suggest you go out and buy it if you aren’t going to use it in other preparations. For this chowder it is really just lending a golden yellow hue to soup. Nice, but not essential.
  5. My go-to cheddar to eat and cook with is Black Diamond. It’s a Canadian cheese that is aged to perfection. We’ve introduced it to just about all our friends who also continue to spread the word. I’m in love with the 5-year aged, but it’s difficult to find. Not many stores carry it due to the cost; however, you can usually find the 3-year aged. When you cook or bake with cheese, I think it’s important to use one that is strong and can stand up to the rest of the ingredients, otherwise, what’s the point?
  6. If you like a thick chowder with lots of texture, remove about a quart of the soup, puree it and then add it back to the pot. You can adjust this up or down based on your preference.
  7. This recipe makes enough for a small army, so plan to eat it all week, share it or just cut it in half. If you make the full recipe don’t even think about using a pot that is less than 9 quarts.
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