Tuesday, September 30, 2008

23. Corn Chowder

Date Cooked: September 28th, 2008
Page: 66
Rating: B

This was another of those recipes that was itching the back of my mind. As autumn sets in I always begin to crave hearty soups and stews and the idea of corn chowder seemed perfect to me. The only problem with corn chowder is that by the time I am craving soups, corn is nearing the end of its season. Many of my local grocery stores are already done with corn in the husk, which leaves me with hunting down a roadside corn stand or hitting up the local farmers markets. It just so happened that when picking up some ingredients to make Pad Thai a second time the grocery store had a big bin of corn, so I grabbed a dozen. Lots of people would say “You can use frozen corn or canned corn,” and to them I say “No”. The recipe calls for 10 ears of corn and specifies the lovely process of milking the corn. See my previous post about corn fritters to find out how I felt about that. You know the idea of milking anything but a cow sounds deviant to me. Picture for a moment if you will a cow being milked. Now replace the cow with a cob of corn. You see my problem. I think I will refer to the technique as shaving the corn, since that seems much more similar.

Okay, so after processing 10 cobs of corn I am left with 3 cups of kernels (cut from 4 cobs) and 3 cups of corn pulp (shaved from 6). I believe I may have figured out where I went wrong with the corn fritters from August. The book assumes after shaving the corn you will have 2 cups of pulp. Apparently I am really efficient at shaving corn since I was able to extract 50% more than required, which means my corn fritters had more liquid to start than required. I figured I would only use the assumed amount for the chowder this time and will make a note to reduce the amount of corn shaved for future attempts at this recipe. The kernels and pulp where set aside for later as I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

I did have to make one substitution in this recipe. I only had 1 small onion when the recipe calls for 1 large onion. So I also added two shallots and figured that quantity wise it would equal out and that the flavor while slightly different wouldn’t be overly affected by this change of plans. Since I brought up shallots lets discuss their emotional impact on me. Every time I cut into a shallot my eyes well up with tears. We are not talking moist eyes irritated from the mild sulfuric acid created by the highly volatile propanethiol S-oxide gas released from the onion reacting with the water in my eyes (how’s that for some chemistry!). I’m talking about the onslaught of pain that mimics having my eyes scoured with sandpaper and then washed with bleach and rinsed with a strong sulfuric acid. I can’t see through the tears as much as you can’t see through Niagara Falls. I usually have to stop chopping for fear of severing a digit or two. Oddly this occurs with shallots. Onions are only a slight discomfort.

With all the ingredients prepped and measured and my eyesight returning I began by sautéing some salt pork. The directions are simple. Sauté until crisp and the fat has rendered. For some reason they don’t discuss how much smoke will be produced. I was happily sautéing away and flipping the pieces when I look up and had my vision obscured by the low hanging cloud of grease smoke. The blue haze was quickly filling the kitchen and creeping into adjoining rooms. I frantically opened the kitchen windows to get the air flowing before the smoke alarms started blaring. Unfortunately my exhaust fan does not vent to the outside but merely filters the smoke created while cooking and re-circulates the air. Apparently it is not very good at that. With the air finally clearing I moved onto the next steps of the recipe. It is straightforward enough at this point that the rest of the ingredients get added one-by-one and then brought to a boil and left to simmer. A raft kept forming in the chowder and I was tempted to remove it but the book mentions nothing about this so I just kept stirring it back in. Stirring also kept the heavier potatoes and corn from adhering to the bottom of the pot.

Once complete I sampled a bowl. I think I like it. It was pretty tasty but not quite as thick as I was hoping for. I was also a little concerned about the cream used. I don’t always get along with cream. Cream and I have a love hate relationship. I love it. It hates me.

Rating: B. It was really good chowder. In the future I will definitely need to find away to thicken it a bit more and switch out the heavy cream for a lighter alternative. I’ve also noticed recipes that use bacon in the final stages of cooking instead of rendering fat from salt pork in the beginning. I think I will go the extra mile and add some bacon next time (while continuing to render salt pork… you can never have enough pork!)


  1. I have a corn chowder recipe that I LOVE, so I always hesitate to try a new one, but this one does look good. And I just have to say that I never used to have problems cutting shallots or onions, but ever since becoming pregnant, I can't get through a whole onion before my eyes are so filled with tears that I can't see anything. It's really weird...and quite annoying. Hopefully it will go away once the baby comes!

  2. this looks like a great treat... thanks for sharing... :)

  3. Wow - that's some allergic reaction to shallots! I don't think I've ever reacted to a shallot, although strong onions can bring me to my knees. Maybe swim goggles?

    As for rendering the salt pork, try a lower heat. It'll take longer but you won't be endangering your lungs.

    (LOL at the corn milking! For some reason it sounds dirty to me too.)

  4. You finally got around to make corn chowder!! I kinda like mine thin. Btw, I have an award for you in my blog. With all these gutso things you do, you so deserve it!

  5. This is a great soup for the end of summer. We've still got some cobs lingering in our markets here in So Cal. I love corn chowder.

  6. I have an unhealthy addiction to corn: corn chowder, cornbread, corn straight from the can...your soup looks delectable!!


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