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Corn chowing the chowder

March 5, 2009

Having never actually had corn chowder, I have to say it felt quite strange that I was seriously craving the stuff two nights or so  ago. I knew too, when I smelt it cooking, that it would do just the trick. Thanks goes to the (gorgeously photographed) recipe on Pictures and Pancakes, although I had a bit of a tweak using celery instead of peppers (I seem to for once not have cream in the fridge, cheekily begging to be used in place of milk in a recipe).

No photo for this one – check out the one on Pictures and Pancakes, I decided not to try and outdo it! Also mine didn’t turn out nearly as pretty because of the celery used (although I love the taste of celery in a mirepoix so I don’t really regret it!), and I had a feeling anyone viewing would be a tad put off, which would be a real shame. A plus – you can really easily make this vegan, and while the cream will make this really sing, I’d still be pretty happy if someone served it to me without!

If you want this to be seriously good, the simple answer is to use the best produce possible – when you sniff your celery before buying, it should be pungent and aromatic, not watery. The carrots should be deep orange when cut open, the onions should be crisp and juicy, and the corn must be straight off the cob. You want garlic that is still firm and fresh, and proper stock (this discounts most of the stock from the supermarket I’m afraid). Don’t worry, this chowder can be quick, but if you’re looking for the penultimate corn chowder experience…don’t say I didn’t advise you!

Classic corn chowder

serves 4. This is intended more as a guide – the amount of vegetables and stock you use can vary. You can try different herbs too, but thyme in this is utterly droolly.

1 onion, roughly chopped finely
4 medium sized stalks celery, chopped finely(ish)
2 small carrots roughly diced into 1cm chunks
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium sized potatoes, diced into 1cm chunks
a sprig of fresh thyme, or pinch of dry thyme
1 bay leaf
600ml vegetable stock (or chicken, but not beef)
1-2 cobs fresh corn, cut off the cob (directions below)*
approx 1/3 cup cream (omit to make vegan)
fresh chopped parsley if available (to garnish)
salt & pepper
cooking oil or butter (oil for vegans)
* heat on high in microwave with the green stuff still on for 3 minutes, then turn over, and heat for another 3 minutes. Strip off the green stuff, and cut in half (so you have two cobs). Run your knife down the cob, to form a square/pentagon cross section. Definitely then shave off the corners – these provide the lovely texture that will make your chowder sing. If corn’s not in season, you can always used canned or frozen corn, as long as it’s defrosted and drained.
First, set your corn to cook. You can leave it in the microwave once it’s done, while you do the rest of the chowder. This will let it cool enough so that you can get the green stuff off without burning yourself!
In a medium sized saucepan, heat oil or butter on a medium heat (if using oil) or medium low (if using butter). Add onion and carrots, and stir, cooking until the onions turn translucent. Add garlic, potatoes and celery, and stir, cooking until the celery starts turning translucent too and the garlic starts smelling fragrant. Add thyme, bay leaf and stock, bring to a boil, and let simmer for about 10-12 mins until the potatoes are tender and very almost cooked. Stir in corn and cream, and let cook for a few minutes if corn if uncooked, otherwise let cook only for a minute. Taste, add salt and pepper to your liking, and remove from heat. Garnish with fresh parsley if you have any, and enjoy with some fresh bread (preferably some you’ve baked yourself…ahem).
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