Tuesday, June 7, 2011

0 Recipe #274: Corey's Creamilicious Corn Chowder

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Corn chowder is definitely a comfort food. This version is much healthier than the traditional version while still remaining quite flavorful. The secret is in choosing the right ingredients and also the proper techniques, to keep the soup velvety smooth and creamy tasting while eliminating unnecessary fat.

I like to use whatever's fresh and in season. And so, when I saw there was a special on corn at the supermarket $2 for 10 ears of corn, I jumped at the opportunity to make some dishes with fresh corn. Of course, I got all 10 ears. ;) So, in other words, expect some more corn recipes in the near future. :-D

You know summer's almost here when corn suddenly makes an appearance at the grocery store and the farmers' market stalls. Excitement! :-D

Creamilicious Corn Chowder

4 ears of corn, shucked, cleaned, and rinsed (makes about 2 c. cooked)
1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, unpeeled
8 c. water, lightly salted
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, washed & well-scrubbed (about 3 medium-sized potatoes) (makes about 2 c. cooked)
1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 Tbsp. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for preparing the corn for roasting
1 large fresh bay leaf
1/2 c. carrots, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced (about 2 medium-sized stalks)
1/4 c. shallot, finely minced (about 1 medium-sized shallot)
2 c. (16 oz.) low-sodium organic vegetable broth*
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder (to naturally enhance color of soup)
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper, or to taste (If you like your soup a bit spicier, use 1/4 tsp.)
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/8 c. (2 Tbsp.) lite nondairy creamer
1 c. skim milk
1/2 c. vine-ripened tomatoes, cored, seeded, & diced (about 2 medium-sized tomatoes) (about 2 Tbsp. per bowl)
4 Tbsp. flat leaf Italian parsley, finely minced (about 1 Tbsp. per bowl)

Directions: Using an oil diffuser (like Misto) or a silicon brush, lightly coat the shucked corn with a small amount of olive oil. (It's very important to do this; otherwise the corn will dry out in the oven.) Roast the corn and the onion half on a large (12" x 17") aluminium foil-covered tray (i.e., for easy cleanup) for 15-20 minutes on 600°F (i.e., the broil setting). Flip/rotate vegetables half-way through cooking. Remove onion from oven after 15 minutes and place onto a heat-proof plate. Corn should be ready either at the same time as the onion or 5 more minutes after that, until grill marks appear.

Meanwhile, bring 8 c. lightly salted water to a rolling boil in a large (6-8 qt.) pot, about 8 minutes. Then gingerly place potatoes into the pot of boiling water using a heat-proof slotted spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover tightly with a lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until almost tender when pierced with a knife. When finished, do not drain water! Allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes, then drain potatoes into a heat-proof colander, with a large, deep bowl placed directly underneath to catch the starchy potato water. (If there's debris in the water, strain potato water into a mesh sieve potato instead. Of course, this all depends on how well you scrubbed the potatoes. ;) ) Reserve liquid and set this bowl aside. When cool enough to handle, place potatoes on a cutting board and cut into 1" cubes. (You can peel the potatoes if you like, but I don't. There are lots of nutrients in the peel. You won't be able to see bits of the peel in the soup anyhow, as it will be pulverized in the food processor later.) Transfer potatoes into another (different) large bowl and set aside.

By now, the corn and onions should be ready. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for a 10-15 minutes. When vegetables are cool enough to handle, prepare the corn: Place a corn cob holder into the flat side where the stalk has been removed (for stability). (You can also level off the other end for increased stability.) Holding the corn cob holder with a firm grip, slice off the corn kernels from the cobs, using a sharp knife. (Be careful when doing this!) Reserve 1/2 c. kernels for garnish. Next, dice the onions. Place the kernels, the cob, and the diced onion into the same bowl as the potatoes. Set aside.

In the now-empty pot you originally used to boil the potatoes, make the roux: Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-low heat, then rapidly whisk in flour, stirring until the mixture forms a smooth paste, about 1-2 minutes. Add the olive oil, bay leaf, carrots, celery, and shallots and sauté for 3 minutes on low heat until vegetables are almost tender and shallots are translucent. (If roux starts to brown or burn while you're sautéing the vegetables, deglaze with a little vegetable broth and stir continually.) Then add 5 c. of the reserved starchy potato water, vegetable broth, and corn cobs into the pot. (Cobs are cooked in the soup for added flavor. Don't worry, you won't be eating the cobs as part of the soup; they'll be removed later. ;) ) Turn up the heat to high, cover with a tightly fitting lid, and bring to a rolling boil, about 8 minutes. Then reduce heat to low, carefully empty the bowl containing the corn kernels, onion, and potatoes into the pot, and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes. Check on soup every 5 minutes or so, and stir. If soup cooks down too fast, add more potato water, about 1/2 c. at a time, as necessary. During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, lift the lid, add the fresh thyme leaves, and stir continually, just until soup thickens. Cook soup until desired consistency has been reached. Season with turmeric, allspice, nutmeg, paprika, black and white pepper, and salt. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Turn off heat and let rest for 10 minutes. With a two-pronged carving/serving fork, stab the corn cobs to remove from the pot, then discard. Also discard bay leaf.

When soup has completely cooled, stir in creamer and skim milk. Either use an immersion blender or transfer soup in batches to a blender, and then purée the soup until the texture is smooth and creamy.

Garnish with reserved kernels, diced tomato, and parsley. Serve hot or warm with some crusty, rustic bread or slices of toasted Parmesan garlic bread. Bon appétit!

Yield: about 8 c., or approximately 4 servings.

Chef's Notes: If you'd like to make this recipe vegan, you can substitute unflavored/plain soy milk for the creamer and milk, and another 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil for the 1/2 Tbsp. butter. Please make sure that the soy milk is unflavored; otherwise the soup will taste disgusting. LOL.

*I know there are many people who make this soup with chicken broth. However, I initially tried using chicken broth, and frankly, the flavor was way too strong, even though I only used 2 cups. Chicken broth seems to overwhelm and interfere too much with what should be the primary flavor of the soup, i.e., corn. :) Vegetable broth, in contrast, allows the corn flavor to shine through. This is why I recommend using vegetable broth for this soup instead. :)

Added later: The overpowering chicken taste does diminish markedly after the soup's been refrigerated for a day or two. However if you'll be serving the soup on the same day you'll be making it, you might want to just use vegetable broth instead.

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