Over the weekend it was rain rain rain and cold cold cold - blegh. But then around came Monday, and suddenly there was the beautiful fall weather I've been waiting for! I put on my new boots, wore my autmn-ey long skirt and a brown sweater, and took it easy at work (well, a little bit easy anyway). And when I finally got home and the day was still wonderful, I was inspired to cook. Cook what? What else! Corn chowder, of course.
Now, I say that having a) never made it before, and b) never had it other than from out of a carton. But I could just feel in my bones that it was a corn chowder kind of day. So instead of heading for my apartment from the subway, I headed for the grocery store. There was a recipe in my head just dying to get out.
That's not to say that this recipe is all my own - not by any stretch. I got a solid framework for it from the corn chowder recipe in Clean Food by Terry Walters. (This book was bequeathed to me by my adorable co-worker Alyza, who may or may not be fed some vegan corn chowder any day now.) As usual, though, I deviated pretty significantly from there... partly because I am terrible at following recipes, and partly because I don't fully agree with this book's school of un-seasoning. I heart my spice rack.
As so many good things do, it all begins with one medium onion, chopped, and then sauteed for a few minutes in some good olive oil on low to medium heat. (This is a one pot soup; sautee right in that pot!) Basically, I get the onion in the pan and then start chopping the other vegetables. As they're chopped, I dump them in as well. Chop chop chop, stir stir stir, kind of like that. (What's that you say? I make Jonathan do all of the chopping for me? Hush now, don't talk so. Just because it's the truth and everything, you don't have to go talking about it.)
What other vegetables? Well in this instance, a few stalks of celery (3 or 4?) and a couple of carrots - we ended up using three small ones because that's what was wilting away in our fridge. Also, potatoes! The original recipe called for two "medium" potatoes. What does that mean anyway? I don't really like regular icky thick skinned potatoes though; I much prefer little baby new potatoes. So naturally that's what I picked up at the store, red ones. I used eight of them, each approximately the diameter of a golf ball, but flatter. I left the skins on (such a pretty red color!) and cut them into about eighth pieces.
Once all of your veggies have been chopped and added to the pot, add about a half cup of white cooking wine, or just regular old white wine if you happen to have half a bottle of the cheap stuff sitting in your fridge. You can measure, or you can eyeball, depending on how much you trust yourself (and how much you want your veg sautee to taste like cooking wine). I also added some seasonings here: celery salt, lemon pepper, and dried parsley. Let the mix sautee for a good five or ten minutes this way so that the potatoes start to cook and the flavors start to mingle.
Next, add your corn. You can use fresh or frozen. The recipe I was working from called for 3 1/2 cups, but I was using frozen, and how do you not end up with that little fist of unused frozen corn sitting in your freezer? I ended up using two 10 oz. packages of Cascadian Farms frozen organic sweet corn, which was probably about 4 cups. I didn't measure; I just dumped both bags in. Corn heavy corn chowder? Fine by me. (And actually, if/when I make this again I'll probably up it to three bags, but maybe puree one of them...)
So once your corn is in, you want to fill the pot with your "milk" of choice. As always I was using almond milk, but I could not get my normal brand (unsweetened Almond Breeze by Blue Diamond, what's up) which I think would have made the soup even better than it turned out. Anyway, you want to add enough milk to "just cover" the ingredients already in the pot - in my case this was about four cups. That equals one of the smaller (quart sized) cartons that non-dairy milks often come in. Whatever you choose to use, I suggest that you get a plain flavor that is low in sugar for this kind of cooking.
Once the milk is in, you want to bring the pot up to just barely a boil, and then lower it down to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Once your 20 minutes is up, you're going to do the exciting bit. The original recipe calls for a stick blender; I don't have one of those. What I do have, though, is a food processor. You do too, right? So grab your ridiculously oversized pyrex measuring thingy - you know you have one - and transfer 2.5 to three cups of the contents of your pot into it. A ladle works well for this kind of thing. Then pour this into your food processor. (You can let the remainder in the pot continue to simmer, but keep an eye on it.)
It will look something like this. Then... process! Pulse and process away till the contents of your food processor is smooth. It gets kind of spooky smooth, actually, kind of like creamed corn out of a can. If you've never had it, well, it borders on slimy. (Did I forget to take an "after" shot because I suck? Yes, yes I did.)
Pour your blendy-smooth mixture back into the main pot and stir well. It should hopefully look something like this. The chowder is now essentially finished, but you want to let its separated parts get to know each other again. Let it simmer for two or three minutes, and then turn the fire off and leave it covered for five to ten minutes before serving.
I served mine with a little sprinkle of dill on top, because every now and then I'm fancy like that. Was it just exactly perfectly the meal I was looking for? Yes, yes it was. Did Jonathan love it? Yes, yes he did. Should you make this chowder immediately? Yes, yes you should.
It will bring you joy. Joy... in the form of corn.