Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Next Day Chowder

My first husband's mother, Mom T, was a traditional homemaker, rarely seen today. A tiny sprite of a woman with rich brown hair that never grayed, she majored in Home Economics at Oregon State, never lived away from home (except during her college years), never worked outside the home and relished her central role in her husband's, children's and grandchildren's lives. She cooked all meals except on the truly rare occasions when Dad T would make some wacky dish that he adored like tripe or scrapple; then she would retreat in disgust from her bright yellow kitchen.

Losing her in the divorce was one of the saddest aspects of that trying time. We vowed to stay in touch but, inevitably, her loyalty to her son won out; we slowed, then stopped corresponding and I heard about her death only well after she was gone.

One of my favorite of her standard meals was sweet corn chowder but, being a woman of her generation, she believed in canned corn, something I have never warmed to. So, I decided to adapt her corn chowder recipe to my own tastes. Sweet, peppery, herby, smoky and a little salty - that describes Mom T as well as the soup. This is hearty fare for a fall day, really a little too rich for a balmy September Sunday in Northern California but I had all the ingredients on hand, so what the heck.

Here's to you, Mom T, wherever you are!

Next Day Chowder (I'm calling my version "Next Day Chowder" because it really is much, much better the second day. Ideally, you'd make it one day and serve it the next. The bacon comes into its own, the corn flavor is more pronounced, and the thyme really hums the next day)

6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled (I used Niman Ranch uncured but I think the Fatted Calf would have been even better in this dish)
1-2 Tbs. bacon fat rendered from crisping the bacon
l large onion, diced
1-1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2-3 fresh ears' worth)
1-1/2 cups diced redskin potato (I leave the skin on, she'd have peeled it off)
2 tsp dry thyme, rubbed between your fingers as it goes in (or more if you use fresh leaves)
2 cups whole milk (or milk and half/half, or half/half and cream - depends on how rich you want your chowder to be)
salt (don't overdo the salt as the bacon adds more salty flavor)
fresh ground pepper
fresh scallions for garnish, chopped

Cook bacon until crisp, crumble and set aside. Put 1-2 Tbs of the bacon fat in a large pot and add the onion and thyme, stirring to coat with bacon drippings. Cover and cook until onions are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the diced potato and about 1/2 cup of water. Cook over medium heat until potato is tender (about 5 minutes). Add corn, milk, salt, pepper and heat through. Don't boil. Serve hot, garnished with the scallions. If you keep it until the next day, cover and refrigerate after it cools.


Blogger Dagny said...

The canned corn from Trader Joe's is fabulous. I usually do not do canned veggies but I gladly embrace this one. So stock up on some cans and you can have this yummy sounding chowder even when corn is not in season.

Oh, and Mom T. sounds a lot like my dad's mom. Even after my parents divorced, my grandmother kept in touch with my mom, at the very least sending birthday cards every year. I'm sure a great deal of it had to do with the fact that I grew up with my mother. But I honestly think that she liked my mother a lot. When my parents were married and had had a fight, my grandmother would often side with my mom. And of course, my grandmother was never a fan of my stepmother as well. By the way, this is the grandmother who gave me my love of cooking, the one about whom I often write.

Basically divorce is a hard thing on families as it doesn't affect just the couple but everyone in their circles.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Ooh, Zoomie! This sounds dreamy. I could go for a bowlful right this minute...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Dagny, thanks for the tip about the Trader Joe's corn. I'll try it this winter when I'm desperate!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Wonderful soup, I make almost exactly the same thing when the weather is cold - I'm sure I'll get one or 2 more loads out before it gets too warm. It's a meal soup.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Molly, it is, indeed! Especially the second day. As DMM says, it's a meal soup - no need for anything else!

DMM, so funny that you are getting warm while we are feeling the first chilly winds this morning!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007  

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