Apologies for being a bit delinquent in my posts this week, but the job that pays the bills required more attention than usual. Fortunately, I still managed to have some free time to hang out with friends, and, of course, I always make time to cook.
This week’s veggie share was loaded with corn. Rather than freezing the ears or letting them go to waste, I decided to make a corn chowder. Most recipes call for potatoes to thicken it, but if you have enough corn, you shouldn’t need the added texture. Although you could easily make this vegetarian, the addition of a pork product gives it some depth of flavor. Then you might put in some seafood, since it’s summer. Lump crab tends to be the preferred choice, but I often find that the crab taste can get lost. With such an expensive product, I’d rather let it be the star, so instead I went with bay scallops. But the fish component is unnecessary — this chowder is just as delicious on its own. The sweet, fresh corn and the pancetta were a perfect match (sorry vegetarians, but I’m not so sure that it would be as good absent the pig, but the mushrooms would help). The flavors are complex and elegant enough to serve at any dinner party. But this is easily transportable for a potluck or BBQ. And it does NOT take long to make. So ladle yourself a bowl and pour a glass of Gruner or a seasonal beer to go with it. You really can’t go wrong with one of summer’s most plentiful ingredients.
Summer Corn Chowder with Mushrooms and Scallops
Serves 4 as a main course; 6 as a starter.
5 ears of corn
2 oz of pancetta (or 4 strips of bacon, cut into pieces)
2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups of 1/2 and 1/2
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 tbsps of scallions or leeks, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 cup of bay scallops (optional)
1/4 tsp of parsley, chopped
Slice the corn from the cobs and reserve 2 cobs. In a large saucepan, saute the pancetta or bacon over medium low for about 5 minutes. (There should be enough fat that you don’t need to add any butter or oil.) Add the onion, jalapeno and scallions to the pan and reduce the heat to low. (There should still be enough pork fat to cook. If not, add a bit of butter.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes or till tender. Then add the broth (I used veggie because the chicken can be a bit stronger) and the 1/2 and 1/2. Throw in the cobs and bring to a simmer. Let merge for about 5 minutes but don’t let it burn. Remove the cobs, then add the corn. Let it cook for another 5 minutes. Since the corn is fresh, it should not take long to cook, but you want to at least mix the flavors.
If adding mushrooms and/or scallops or crab, in a separate pan, saute them with some butter and parsley for about 2 minutes. Neither takes long to cook, so don’t overdo it. Turn the heat off and let rest. (Note: I used pre-sliced portabella mushrooms because they were fast and available. But shitake would be great, or if you want to go more upscale, try some chanterelles.)
Puree about half of the corn in the chowder in a mini-prep food processor (it’s fine if you get some pancetta, peppers or onions in there too) or with a hand-mixer so it thickens. If pureed separately, return to the pot. Stir in the mushrooms and scallops if you used them. Let the flavors mesh for a couple of minutes. Or you can keep it separate and ladle the corn chowder over the other ingredients into individual bowls. (Note: If you want it soupier, just add some additional broth and/or cream. This will also increase the portion size.)