October 12, 2010

State of Flux

Oh, hello Fall.

It's nice of you to start out real hot.  Like 100+ degrees hot. Then quickly transition into rainy, wet, gray weather, and back again to warm.  Really, I like my seasons unpredictable like that. 

About as unpredictable as my blog posts as of late.  It's been what?  12 days?  Sheesh.  I need to get on top of things!  I blame it on vacation brain.  I'm still seeing the sweeping vistas of Yosemite when I close my eyes, the towering rocky cliffs of the valley, trees so large you'd swear it was the inspiration for the background in Avatar and an expanse of blue sky.  A place so beautiful that I'm even willing to forget the vague threat of running into bears and the rain that was ever present for the last half of the trip.

So, as an ode to this crazy weather, straddling two seasons, here is a soup that does the same.  It's a chowder, warm and comforting, but made with late season corn and no cream, making it perfect for the cooler - but not cold - evenings.

Of course I couldn't help myself and made some changes.  I added a red bell pepper to the mix, chopped two full stalks of celery and didn't bother measuring it, increased the amount of thyme and substituted creamer potatoes for the summer squash.  It's kind of genius what Cooking Light did with the rest of the recipe, blending up a majority of the corn with the low fat milk to add body and keeping the rich calorie dense add ins (bacon, cheddar cheese) as a modest topping.  It's a chowder that's a little bit of autumn, a little bit of summer and just the ticket for dinner.  And as typical for soups, it was even better the next day.

Fresh Corn Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2010

Originally, there were no potatoes in this chowder, it was supposed to be summer squash, but I swapped the two because I had a craving, and a vision.  Here's what I learned.  It might be best to par boil the potatoes before adding them to the soup; the longer time you spend simmering the soup to get the potatoes fully cooked the more it wanted to stick to the bottom of the pan.  It wasn't a deal breaker, but keep it in mind for yourself if slightly uncooperative soup isn't your thing.  Or switch it back to a pound of diced summer squash which will cook much quicker and avoid the issue all together.

4 servings

2 slices, thick cut bacon
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 pound red potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
1 pound corn kernels, either frozen of from 4-5 ears of corn
2 1/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Crumble bacon, and set aside. Add 1/2 cup green onions, celery, bell pepper and potatoes to drippings in pan; saute 8-10 minutes.

Reserve 1 cup corn; set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to blender; process just until combined. Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 15-20 minutes more or until thoroughly heated and the potatoes are tender, stirring frequently . Ladle into bowls and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining onions, and 1 tablespoon cheese.

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