If you are regular reader of this blog, you may remember that I consider myself the world’s worst gardener. Every spring I start thinking about what to plant, always full of hope and sure that this is the year I’m going to actually grow something and reap the fruits (and veggies) of my labor. This year my season’s worth of efforts reaped six grape tomatoes and two pods of okra for us humans. The wildlife ate well though. The chipmunks ate all the seeds, the groundhog ate the basil, and the deer ate every-stinking-thing else. They even eat the green tomatoes once they reached some mysterious deerlicious state. Every leaf off the parsley and okra plants is gone too, leaving green stems sticking out of the ground.
So you’re probably not too surprised that I don’t try to grow my own corn. I dream of it. See, in my imagination I’m a regular farmer. In the spring I visualize tall thick tomato plants heavy with ripe fruit. I plan on canning things, making pies, sauces and other goodies from what I’ve grown. I think that neat rows of corn as high as an elephant’s eye would look great in the spot of my yard currently overtaken with Japanese Knotweed. In my vision I’m a bit like a Disney princess feeding the deer an apple from my tree laden with fruit and laughing with the chipmunks. But in my dream even the Snow White version of myself hates the groundhog.
Alas, my reality is weekly trips to the local farmer’s market. Not that the farmer’s market is bad, but it’s slightly less romantic than plucking ripe tomatoes a la the Disney Martha Stewart. Luckily for me it’s a good year for the local corn here in New England. Every time I pick up another batch it’s even better than the time before. I’ve had corn on the cob so many times in the past month that think I might start sprouting cobs. So, it’s time to branch out, pull out the soup pot and get to chowdering.
Equipped with a slab of salt pork and a quart of cream, pretty much anyone can make good chowder. But, a rich and satisfying vegetarian version not loaded down with quarts of heavy cream is a little harder. I wanted a nice full flavor; one not only loaded with sweet corn flavor, but also with the flavors of lot of veggies, herbs, and the nutty bite of sharp aged cheddar.
I cut out some, but not all, of the fat by switching from cream to half and half and cutting back on the amount. I also replace the the usual rendered pork fat with a restrained amount of olive oil. To achieve both creamy texture and rich corn flavor I use corn kernels cut off the cob, and also corn grated like in my recipe for creamed corn. The result is a rich and satisfying soup brimming with summer sweet-corn flavor.
The final secret to the success of this recipe is in the garnish. By topping the soup with grated or crumbled aged sharp cheddar, you give each person a burst of flavor that is still melting into the soup as they stir it around and eat it. The flavor gives up gradually, letting the sweetness of the corn hit the palate before giving way to the tang of the cheese. This is not one of those chowders that tastes of nothing but the pure sweet flavor of summer corn. I figure if I wanted that, I’d just make more corn on the cob. Rather it’s a burst of hearty flavors mixed with the best of summer sweet corn to make a soup you’ll be happy you’ve made. Enjoy!
Ugh, do not get me started on the wrinkles in the fabric. I ironed it twice with steam, and the darn things kept coming back.