This past Friday as I was at a stop sign it hit me. It was exactly one year since my grandfather's passing. Out of my four grandparents he was the one without any kitchen skills. He had warmed up a can of dog food on the gas stove once, but it exploded leaving the kitchen in a Purina coated mess and a stray dog hungry. That was the one and only cookery attempt I know of. Yet, when I rip into a fresh stalk of corn I immediately think of him.
The summer before my final semester in college my grandfather, who was 74, and his brother decided to plant a garden at the old family homestead. My sister and I, along with our boyfriends took the 45 minute jaunt over to help with the harvest. When I laid my eyes upon the "garden", I knew we were in for A LOT of work. "Garden"... that was an understatement. We had expected those old men to have planted a 20'X20' plot, but it was more like an acre. It was filled with tomatoes, new potatoes, purple hull peas, melons, squash, zucchini and corn.
We spent the majority of the day picking peas and hauling them up to the old farmhouse. My great uncle had invested in a sheller and we sat in the house packing purple hulls into gallon bags. We had enough purple hulls to feed the closest town, I have no doubt about that.
But it was the corn. The sweetest, most succulent corn I had ever laid my lips upon. We ate it right off of the stalk. Raw. The bright color, the musky sweet scent of the husk, the crisp crunch and sugary sweet kernels had imprinted on me, creating a food memory. And since, I don't recall ever eating corn so pure and sweet.
It is because of that hot Texas summer day, the over achieving farmer that rested in my grandfather, and that golden sweet corn, that I have a food memory of the one man in my family that never cooked. He may not have known how to prepare it, but he sure did know how to grow it.
I'm sharing this recipe along with my Chicken Tortilla Soup over at TidyMom & Dine and Dishes #Soupapalooza starting today. “Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAid, Red Star Yeast and Le Creuset”
Summer Corn Chowder
source: Cooks Illustrated, Jul/Aug 2011
Unlike the corn chowder I posted a few years back, this chowder is not laden with heavy dairy. An extra and unique step of extracting corn juice from the pulp lends a very fresh, pure taste and a beautiful butter-yellow color to this soup.
8 ears corn, husks and silk removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped fine
4 slices bacon, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup flour
5 cups water
3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup half-and-half
pinch of sugar
- Using chef's knife or corn stripper, cut kernels from corn; transfer to bowl and set aside (making 5 to 6 cups of kernels). Holding cobs over second bowl, use back of a knife to firmly scrape any remaining pulp on cobs into bowl (making 2 to 2 1/2 cups of pulp). Transfer pulp into cheesecloth set in a medium bowl. Wrap cheesecloth tightly around the pulp and squeeze tightly until dry. Discard pulp and cloth and set corn juice aside (it should yield about 2/3 cup corn juice)
- Melt butter in dutch oven over medium heat; add bacon and cook until bacon begins to brown. Add onion, thyme, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper, cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and edges are beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add water and bring to boil. Add corn kernels and potatoes. Return to simmer; reduce heat to medium low and cook until potatoes have softened, 15 to 18 minutes.
- Process 2 cups chowder in blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Return puree to chowder; add half-and-half and return to simmer. Remove pot from heat and stir in reserved corn juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and up to 1 tablespoon sugar. Serve.