Summer Corn Chowder – perfect for a rainy day

Corn Chowder and Cornbread

I hope you’re getting rain.  We got a little bit last night and it’s threatening to rain, today.  The clouds are hanging low and the wind is a cool 65 and I feel for a minute that it could be late September instead of the middle of July.  I live for cold weather and I’m still a little perplexed by why I live here, in the desert.  I grew up around here – maybe that’s it.  We long for things unfamiliar or for the relief we feel on the rare occasions we get a break from our usual reality.  I hear people in Seattle long for the beach.  I bet they don’t long for the desert, though!

Another comforting thing about food is the ability to transport myself into a feeling or a mood simply by the dish I prepare.  Caprese salad makes me long for summer nights, spice cakes make me wish for Christmas, chocolate chip cookies make me think of home.  A warm bowl of chowder with a thick slice of cornbread and a cold slab of butter puts me in the mood for a cloudy day and cooler temps.  So, in the middle of the heat of the summer, on this cooler week with cloudy days and threatening rain, let’s make a memory with a warm bowl of corn chowder and pray the rain stays a while.

Summer Corn Chowder and the Perfect Cornbread*
serves 6

4 teaspoons bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 ribs celery,cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
8 sprigs thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
3 ears yellow corn, kernels removed (about 2 1/2 cups)
5 ounces small fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Place bacon in small stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is deep golden brown and all the fat has been rendered, about 4 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel, and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.

Add onions, celery, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste to stockpot; cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 15 minutes.

Add corn, potatoes, and chile; cook until potatoes are tender, 10-20 minutes. Remove and discard thyme. Add half-and-half, and simmer until soup is hot. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and garnish with the reserved crisp bacon pieces.

*recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Cornbread

 

We only make one cornbread recipe, anymore.  The New Best Recipe is a wonderful encyclopedia of how to make every recipe basically, perfect.  We love this book and it never steers us wrong.  It’s quite bulky, but all the recipes are tested extensively and done in a myriad of ways, and they give a background as to why the recipes work.  It’s very trust-worthy and a definite go-to in times of need of a solid recipe!  Their Golden Northern Cornbread is our go-to cornbread recipe.  It’s light, fluffy, moist and slightly sweet.  Holds together beautifully to be a base for your bowl of soup, or just on the side with some cold butter.

The Best Golden Cornbread
makes 9 servings

2 tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup (5 ounces) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 cup (5 ounces) AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch square baking pan with butter.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.  Push the dry ingredients up the sides of the bowl to make a well.

Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a wooden spoon, then add the buttermilk and milk.  Stir the wet and dry ingredients quickly until almost combined.  Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter into the greased pan (we actually love to use our cast-iron skillet for this recipe). Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, 10 minutes.  Cut and serve warm!

 

Corn Cookies

momofuku corn cookies

momofuku corn cookies 3

This is one of the best cookies I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Crispy on the outside, chewy and soft in the middle.  Sweet, salty, and incredibly buttery.  It uses a mystery ingredient: corn powder. All you do (and believe me, slackers, this ingredient is worth whatever effort you don’t want to put forth) is buy a bag of freeze dried corn off Amazon and pulse it in your blender or food processor till it looks like powder.  Then, you’ll have enough for a few batches of these amazing cookies.  The corn powder adds to the incredible butter flavor and if you don’t tell anyone, they won’t be able to pick out the secret ingredient.  They’ll just sit and marvel that they are enjoying the greatest cookie (that doesn’t include chocolate) of their life.

This recipe is from the wonderful Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  Matt made Olive’s first birth-day (made it when we came home from the hospital with her) cake from this book, my birthday cake and the Crack Pie that we’ve made a few times and won a smallish award (in a contest created by us) for best non-fruit pie at our Pie Bake-Off.  Christina Tosi is undoubtedly a genius, as Momofuku  Milk Bar’s creative pastry chef.  It’s only her hummingbird-like brain that could come up with such nostalgic, creative, sugar-rush kind of desserts.  She is a child at heart, which shows so evidently throughout this cookbook.

Word of caution: if you like to get in and out of the kitchen quick, this book isn’t for you.  (the cookies were easy enough but the rest…) My birthday cake had Matt in the kitchen for two days and involved around 5 different recipes for one cake alone.  However, it was the best cake ever.  I don’t need to reiterate that good things are worth the hard work, but I will.  To quote Bob Kelso, “Nothing in this world worth having comes easy.”

And every recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar is worth having.

momofuku corn cookies 2

Corn Cookies
yield: 13-15 cookies

*225 g butter, at room temp (2 sticks)
300 g sugar (1.5 cups)
1 egg
225 g flour (1 1/3 cups)
45 g corn flour (1/4 cup – if you don’t have corn flour, which I didn’t, mix 1/4 flour and 4 tsp corn powder)
65 g freeze dried corn powder (2/3 cup)
3 g baking powder (3/4 tsp
1.5 g baking soda (1/4 tsp)
6 g kosher salt (1.5 tsp)

1. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium for 2 to 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes (this is important.  This long mixing process is what gives the cookies their amazing texture)

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat.  Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Do NOT baking your cookies from room temp – they WILL NOT bake properly.

4. Heat oven to 350F.

5. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment or silpat-lined sheet pans.  Bake for 18 minutes (Mine looked perfect in exactly 18 min. They know their stuff) The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread.  After 18 minutes, they should be faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute if not.

6. Cool the cookies completely ON the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or your mouth (yeah right, you know you’ll eat a warm one and you SHOULD).  At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh in an air-tight container for 5 days.  But I really doubt they’ll last that long.

*I think measuring your flour, corn flour and corn powder by weight is really important.  Reason:  I first did it by volume and measured out 1 1/3 cups.  Then, to double check, I weighed the flour I’d measured and it was only something like 210 grams.  That’s enough of a difference to matter in the final result.  Just FYI!

momofuku corn cookies 5