[with Corn Chowder Recipe]
Awhile back, I think last fall, when the world was more routine and safe from disease, I visited a friend in her stately 19th century house in the country on a hill overlooking a local reservoir. Deb was preparing a corn chowder in her newly remodeled kitchen. The door was left slightly open for the cats and elderly dog to come and go. Chickens wandered the yard, the leaves were still in autumn splendor. A doe grazed far off in the hayfield next to the house as the sun grew low.
Now, I don’t generally like corn chowder but it smelled delicious, and I try my best to be a gracious guest. Deb added the last of the ingredients and set the flame to a low simmer for a bit while we talked and all the ingredients melded into a unique, unified taste. When she served up big bowls of the milky chowder, the steam felt good on my lips and tip of my nose. Then I took a spoonful, blew on it a bit to cool it before taking in the first slurp. It was fabulous.
Of course, I had to ask about the recipe. She said she it was from The Vegetarian Epicure. Of course, as soon as I heard the title, I squealed, “OMG. I have that cookbook. I haven’t looked at it in years!”
The Vegetarian Epicure was a staple of vegetarian cooks throughout the 70s, and what saved us from a fate of dull, heavy, brown food as the only option while we learned to prepare a primarily plant-based diet. It seems the author, Anna Thomas, is still guiding people with her food commentary: http://www.vegetarianepicure.com/
I got home, my belly full and palette fully satisfied, and immediately pulled down my copy of the cookbook from the cupboard over the stove where a third of my collection lives. Page by page, I not only time-traveled but I started meal planning. I wandered through the book until I found the recipe I wanted to replicate eventually: the Corn and Cheddar Chowder, a delicious twist on the standard.
Of course, I got distracted and left the book back on the shelf in the cupboard, until early this fall when I was processing corn for the freezer to pull out on cold winter nights as a side dish or to make corn fritters. I decided to try to prepare the chowder but soon discovered that I lacked a significant number of the key ingredients, so I started looking at other corn chowder recipes. I am never one to strictly follow a recipe. I almost always look at a number of versions from different sources and then decide how I want to prepare the dish.
So it was with the corn chowder. I mixed and matched with what was in my cupboards and frig. It turned out well for the first try. Then, this weekend, I pulled some of the corn out of thaw and started an enhanced version of my creation to also include one of the apples that was going soft in the fruit bowl. It has been beta tested by a couple of friends who have given it their thumb’s up. Now I am ready to share it. Enjoy and bon appétit.
Poets Happy Dance Corn Chowder
- 1 large or 2 medium potatoes, diced
- 2-3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ – ½ tsp. dried sage
- ½ tsp. cumin seeds
- 3 T. butter or olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1-2 cups corn kernels (see below)
- 1 can coconut milk (may use reduced fat milk)
- 1 apple, peeled and chopped
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- 1-2 oz. Gruyere cheese, cubed
- ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
Add potatoes, water, and spices into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are soft. If using raw corn, add the corn to these ingredients at this point.
In a frying pan, sauté the onion and apple until wilted and slightly caramelized, then add to the pot.
Add the coconut milk, nutmeg, cheeses, and cooked corn if that is what you are incorporating; reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the cheese melts into the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
[Options & Adaptations: This is a vegan option but you may substitute any milk, half & half, or heavy cream for the coconut milk, if you choose. The greater the fat content, the richer the chowder will be. You can add tarragon rather than nutmeg for a different flavor, or you can add curry powder for a different twist. Chipotle or chili powder can be another alternative, and you could add sliced fresh or pickled jalapeño for extra zip. Also, you may add dry white wine, approximately ¼ cup, if you like. If you eat meat, you could add cooked Italian (sweet or hot) or breakfast sausage (pork or turkey), cooked and drained bacon bits, or chorizo, depending on the flavor palette you select.]
Serves 4 – 6