Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Corny chowder

If you ask kids to name a favorite vegetable, it's a safe bet that half will say corn. And there's nothing wrong with that. While I join many others in being alarmed at the proliferation of sneaky corn-based products in our foods, a simple ear of corn is entirely different. Corn on its own contains vitamins, protein and fiber (one ear has about 10% of an adult's fiber needs). So if corn is what a kid likes, by all means give her corn.

In the height of summer, there's nothing better than corn on the cob, especially fresh-picked and local. We often throw unshucked ears of corn on the grill to steam alongside whatever else is grilling. But I recently developed a corn chowder for a kids' cooking class, and it brings corn to a new level with only a few more ingredients. Yes, it has a few pieces of bacon in it, but it's also made with low-fat milk and thickened with potatoes. Part of what makes the flavor so rich is using the cobs in the liquid. I will admit, it made a huge mess in class — the corn kernels were flying as the kids learned how to cut the kernels off the cob. But it was a huge hit, and all the leftovers went home with the kids to share with their families.

I'm still finding corn in my farmers' market, and it's tasting so good. So make a batch of this soup and stick it in the freezer, for a cold winter night when you are craving a reminder of summer. 

Corniest Corn Chowder
adapted from Joy of Cooking

Serves 6.

5-6 ears of corn, shucked
4 pieces of thick-cut bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 1/2 cups 2% milk
2-3 new potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
chives, chopped thin

Remove the corn kernels from the cobs with a small knife. Put kernels in a bowl and set aside. Save the cobs.

In a soup pot, cook bacon pieces over medium for about 10 minutes until they start to brown. Add onions and continue to cook another 10 minutes.

While bacon and onions are cooking, warm milk in the microwave or in a pan over medium heat. It doesn’t need to boil, but it should feel lukewarm.

After onions have softened, add potatoes, corn cobs, and milk to the soup pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add corn kernels and cook another 5 minutes until potatoes are soft. Remove corn cobs and discard.

Using an immersion blender, blend about half the soup so that the soup is thick but still has whole pieces of potato and corn.

Serve with chopped chives on top.

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