RECIPE. Oct 21, 2011

Easy Corn Chowder

Last year the corn from our community garden was sweet, firm and juicy. The addition of butter or salt would have been an insult to the natural flavors that just burst from each kernel. This year the stalks grew twice as tall but bore unsatisfying cobs. Dejected and downtrodden I came home with my ears and felt unsure. I couldn’t just throw all my hard work into the compost but I also couldn’t throw one more kernel down my throat. A week later a few fellow gardeners were singing praise about their corn chowder and I decided this was my golden ticket. After searching several recipes I adapted one that sounded just flat out interesting in process.

I had never even considered adding the cobs after they were stripped of kernels in order to thicken the soup. Pure genius. A natural thickening agent, better than cornstarch or arrowroot powder.  I am often drawn to a recipe because it just looks so damn good I have to taste the picture. This time, and many times, I am drawn to the science of the recipe even more. I often wonder if it really works or if some little joker is pulling my culinary leg.

No jokes here. It really works. Like a charm. So if you have some corn that just doesn’t taste quite right or your kids didn’t finish, then make this chowder. You could even use cobs that were eaten one night with frozen corn to complete the ingredient list. If you don’t have corn on the cob then just throw in frozen corn and a thickening agent such as arrowroot powder or cornstarch until you obtain your desired consistency. The squash is not necessary but adds a sweetness and additional thickness to the chowder that I loved. I put my squash in really early so it wouldn’t be hard but it ended up almost dissolving. I really liked it but I think I would also reserve some chunks to throw in at the end.

In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot, squash and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes. Reserve some squash for the end if you want chunks.

Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer (on our stove we had to use the “warm” setting) to prevent scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan.

Discard the cobs and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes, squash cubes (if you reserved some), 1 teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash are almost fork tender.

Raise the heat, add the corn kernels and the thyme or parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.