Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Great Sadness: The End of the Corn Season

We had some truly transcendent sweet corn earlier this season, but several of our most recent batches have been downright chalky! :-( So Friday, I decided to make a run down to my favorite farmstand in Peru, NY, called Rulf's, and get some of their legendary corn. Well, it was certainly better than the starchy stuff we've been getting lately, but still not fabulous. As it did not stand up to the ultimate test of corny goodness--that is, right from the cob with just butter, salt and pepper--I decided that it was destined for the soup pot instead. My potato corn chowder is a spin-off of Ina Garten's. It's simple and oh-so-delicious and just perfect on a rainy day like today when the nip of fall is definitely in the air. We did major barnyard chores today, cleaning out the chicken coop and both of the rabbit hutches, so it was very nice to come inside and warm up with a comforting bowl of this yummy chowder. You should try it. It makes a huge pot for dinner tonight and tomorrow and/or lunches all week, and the leftovers freeze beautifully for that moment, weeks or months hence, when you need a tasty reminder of summery sweet corn.

Corn and Potato Chowder

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounces bacon, chopped
2 very large onions, chopped
1 teaspoon celery salt (I would have preferred to use a couple of stalks' worth of chopped celery to be sauteed with the onions, if I would have had any on hand)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teapoons salt (I used about a tablespoon of vegetable salt this time)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 cups chicken broth
3 pounds potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut into bite-sized chunks
10 large ears of corn, cut from the cob
2 cups cream (half-n-half, whipping, or heavy--your call)

Garnishes: fresh chives and shredded extra-sharp cheddar (our favorite is McCadam Adirondack Cheddar if you can get it where you live)

Melt the butter with the olive oil in an eight-quart stock pot. Add the bacon pieces and saute until browned. Add the chopped onions and cook for about ten minutes until the onion is translucent. Add all of the seasonings and the flour, stirring well to combine. Cook the floured mixture for about three minutes, then slowly add the broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes. Continue to boil the soup gently for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Blanch the corn for three minutes (or I just nuke mine on the cob, husks and all, for about eight minutes until it's cooked halfway). You can skip this step if you're using frozen corn. Add the corn to the soup and cook for at least another five minutes. Turn the heat down to very low and add the cream, stirring gently to combine. Taste to correct the seasoning, then serve steaming hot in big bowls, garnished with a few snips of fresh chives and some grated sharp cheddar.

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