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La Belle Cuisine - More Soup Recipes

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Corn Chowder:
The All-American Summer Soup

 

 

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“Chowder breathes reassurance. It steams consolation.”
~ Clementine Paddleford


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Peppers at Open-Air Market, Lake Maggiore, Arona, Italy
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Cornfield near Burwell, Nebraska
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Corn Chowder:
The All-American Summer Soup

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA, August 1, 2002
By Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, The Washington Post

“Loaded with corn, thick with chunks of potato and celery, flavored with
smoked bacon or pork, corn chowder is American cooking at its best. This
hearty summer soup -- a happy fusion of native ingredients and a cooking
method developed first at the hearth and then refined in today's home
kitchens -- is almost synonymous with long summer days and fresh corn.
‘Chowder evokes food memories, summers on vacation,’ says Bill Phillips,
chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.,
and a former chef at Red Sage in Washington. ‘It contains the common
thread in American cooking -- corn and pork -- and it's hearty and it's
salty,’ says Phillips, ‘What's not to like?’
Although American chowders are most often associated with seafood, corn
became a natural substitute as New Englanders moved out and settled across
the country, according to Jasper White, author of ‘50 Chowders’ (Scribner,
2000). Fish was not available, but corn was plentiful.
‘They had the heritage of making and eating chowders, and corn took over.
By the end of the late 1800s corn chowder was very popular,’ he continues.
‘When I examined cookbooks and recipes of the times, there were hundreds
and hundreds of recipes for corn chowder, more than any other type
of chowder.
Chowder recipes vary not only state by state, but community to community.
However, there's still a consensus on ingredients. Pork, though not an abso-
lute, is expected. Douglas Anderson, executive chef at the Four Seasons in Washington, has been studying American regional cooking since his days
in the kitchen at Boston's Four Seasons Hotel. ‘Some sort of smoked bacon,
though not a must, is likely -- standing in for the salt pork originally used,’
he says.
Everyone agrees that onions and potatoes are essential, and celery is found
in most recipes as well. As for consistency, the soup should be almost stew-
like – ‘nice and chunky,’ describes White.
Chowder also has a dairy component, though that ingredient has varied over
time. While many chowder recipes have a soup base of milk and cream, today,
it is far more common to start with a broth or stock, whether one made from
boiling the corncobs in water or a homemade chicken stock enriched with
the corncobs. Cream is added at the end of cooking.
The move away from milk bases has a practical basis. Milk-based broths have
a tendency to curdle. Using a corn, vegetable or chicken broth brings stability
and flavor. Cream added at the end introduces the almost-essential dairy
element -- especially in a corn chowder -- with little danger of curdling.
Chowders were developed by home cooks who often had little or no equipment,
so by its very nature the dish is not intimidating. The vegetables don't need to
be cut precisely. The cooking times are not exact. The finished dish can easily
serve as supper. But some recipes are better than others.”
 

Corn Chowder

Makes 7 1/2 to 8 cups, 6 generous servings

"This is my version of classic corn chowder. Use it as a guide,
altering it as you see fit, to make the recipe your own."

4 ears corn, husks and silk removed
3 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup water, plus additional as needed
4 ounces thick-cut or slab bacon, diced into
1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes or pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, thick stalks cut in half lengthwise,
cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into
1/4-to 1/2-inch squares
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 pound all-purpose or Yukon Gold potatoes,
peeled and cut into  3/4-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream

Working with one ear of corn at a time, stand it vertically on a flat
work surface. Hold the ear steady with one hand while using a small
sharp knife in the other hand to slice downward along the cob,
removing the kernels in strips from each ear. Be careful to cut only
the kernels, not the cob. Reserve both the kernels and the cobs.
Break each shaved cob in half. In a medium pot over medium heat,
bring the cobs and stock or broth and water to a boil. Reduce the heat
to medium low. The broth should maintain a gentle simmer.
While the broth simmers, in a large pot over medium heat, fry the
bacon until it begins to brown but is not crisp, about five minutes.
Leave the bacon in the pot and pour off all but one tablespoon of
drippings. Reserve additional drippings. Add the onion, celery and
bell pepper to the bacon and drippings in the pot and cook, stirring
occasionally, until the vegetables soften, eight to 10 minutes. Add
one tablespoon of the reserved drippings to the pot and sprinkle the
mixture with the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is
completely incorporated, one to two minutes.
Remove the cobs from the broth and discard them. Measure the broth.
If you have less than three cups, add as much water as necessary to
measure three cups. To the vegetables and bacon in the pot, add the
broth, reserved corn kernels, potatoes and salt and pepper to taste and
bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, so the soup just barely
boils, and cook until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove
from the heat. Stir in the cream and set aside for 20 minutes. Taste and
adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Per serving: 395 calories, 26 grams fat, 73 milligrams cholesterol, 488 milligrams sodium.

 

Spicy Andouille, Crawfish and
Corn Chowder

Makes 7 1/2 to 8 cups, 6 servings

"If you like your chowder spicy, this is the recipe for you."

4 ears corns, husks and silk removed
3 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup water, plus additional as needed
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or as necessary
6 ounces fully cooked andouille sausage links, each
halved lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and cut into
1/4- to 1/2-inch squares
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 pound all-purpose or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 ounces cooked crawfish tails
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream

Working with one ear of corn at a time, stand it vertically on a flat work surface. Hold the ear steady with one hand while using a small sharp knife
in the other hand to slice downward along the cob, removing the kernels
in strips from each ear. Be careful to cut only the kernels, not the cob.
Reserve both the kernels and the cobs.
Break each shaved cob in half. In a medium pot over medium heat,
bring the cobs, stock or broth and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to
medium low. The broth should maintain a gentle simmer.
While the broth simmers, in a large pot over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the oil. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned,
about five minutes. Leave the sausage in the pot and pour off all but
one tablespoon of the drippings. Reserve additional drippings. Add the
onion, celery and bell pepper to the sausage in the pot and cook, over
medium heat, until the vegetables soften, eight to 10 minutes. Add
one tablespoon of the reserved drippings and sprinkle the mixture
with the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is completely
incorporated, one to two minutes.
Remove the cobs from the broth and discard. Measure the broth.
If you have less than three cups, add as much water as necessary
to measure three cups. To the sausage and vegetables in the pot,
add the broth, reserved corn kernels, potatoes, crawfish and salt and
pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low,
so the soup just barely boils, and cook until the potatoes are tender,
10 to 15 minutes.
While the soup simmers, in a small pan over medium heat, heat the
cream just until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium-low so the cream does not boil and cook
until the cream has reduced by half.
Remove the soup from the heat. Stir in the reduced cream and set
aside for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Per serving: 443 calories, 30 grams fat, 116 milligrams cholesterol, 436 milligrams sodium.
The Times-Picayune. Used with permission
 

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