Green Chile and Corn Chowder

green chile and corn chowder
Matt’s been talking for a few weeks, now, about the corn chowder I made around this time last year.  I made a curried corn chowder when we lived in our apartment a few years ago and it was definitely something to write home about, although no one wrote about it and we just enjoyed it, as people tended to do before Facebook.  Last year, the chowder was more traditional, but nonetheless delicious, and for some reason, so summery, despite its warmth and chowdery-ness.  Sweet summer corn, smoked bacon, and this year: the addition of roasted green chiles.

The joys of making a soup or stew, for me, are in the slow development of flavors, and figuring out the best way to go about that process.  This time, I knew I wanted to really preserve that sweet corn flavor while at the same time, bring in a little heat and umami that a roasted green chile can provide.  So,  at the beginning of cooking, I let the chilies and half the corn roast together and I let the trimmed corn cobs boil in the broth the entire time, to draw out the sweet milkiness that is left after you trim the corn off the cobs.  I pureed half the ingredients to blend up the chile skins, which I left on for flavor, and then added more chilies and fresh corn at the end, along with super smoky bacon to round everything out.  The results were pretty balanced;  just enough heat from the chilies, sweetness from the corn, and perfect with a crusty piece of bread to soak up all those flavors.

Summer is winding down and even if you miss out on making this soup while everything is still fresh, the method of cooking will give you wonderful flavors well into the winter soup months.  Enjoy!

green chile corn chowder
Roasted Green Chile and Corn Chowder
serves 6-8

4 strips of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 ribs celery, diced (about a cup)
4 roasted green chilies (two whole, two peeled, seeded and diced)
4 ears of corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
5 ounces small, fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 1/2 cups half and half

Cook bacon in a large stock pot over medium-high heat until fat renders and bacon crisps.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel to drain.

Add onions, celery, two whole green chilies (stems removed) and half the corn kernels to the pan and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent.  Add chicken stock and corn cobs and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the cobs from the broth and discard.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until very smooth.   If you used a blender, return the pureed soup back to the pot and add the remaining corn, potatoes and chilies and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Add half and half and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Stir in the bacon and bring the soup back up to a simmer. You can also just use the bacon as a garnish if you want it to remain crispy. Serve with crusty, buttery bread and enjoy!

 

 

Irish Lamb Stew – a taste of home, no matter where you’re from

Saint Patricks Day - Irish Stew
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  I confess I don’t know a lot about the real dishes of Ireland; the dishes people grew up eating around their family tables.  I only know that around here, people eat corned beef and cabbage and drink copious amounts of Guiness Stout.  In order to do something a little more authentic than four leaf clover shaped cookies, I consulted my fabulous and too-far-away friend, Elisha Clarke on some of her favorite Irish dishes.  Elisha was born and raised in Ireland and TODAY is her birthday!  I very much feel the luck of the Irish because I know her!  She is an amazing photographer and I hope one day I can go hang out with her in Ireland and see first hand the beauty she gets to photograph every day.
Irish Stew with Country Bread
When I asked her about dishes she grew up loving, she listed five or so and Irish stew actually wasn’t one of her favorites, haha.  But then she sent me a link to a cute, Irish celebrity chef doing this stew on Jaime Oliver’s show and he made it look so simple and delicious, I had to try it!  It came together easily and as it cooked for over an hour, I had time to relax with my family!  As I took the first bite, I was immediately transported to my own dining table as a child.  My mom made beef stew quite often and would let it simmer on the stove while we were at church.  I always loved it and she served it with saltine crackers that we’d crush up into our stew.  Tasting this very similar Irish lamb version made me smile – thousands of miles separate the humble meals of working class Americans and working class Irish, yet we are instantly connected by a warm meal.  Elisha mentioned that her country has very poor origins and so therefore, the traditional dishes are very humble in nature.  I think all the best dishes in any culture originate from people making the best of what they have been given.  My family did it, Elisha’s family did it, and if I were to guess, I’d say that probably most of you could relate to that story, as well.  A simple bowl of warm stew on a cold evening can comfort and connect family and friends, no matter how far apart.
Irish Stew
Irish Lamb Stew*
serves 6

2 TBS vegetable oil
2lb 3oz lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks (could also use beef chuck roast)
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 1/2 cups beef stock
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 TBS butter cut into small cubes
salt and ground black pepper to taste
slices of country bread, to serve

Place a large, flameproof casserole pot over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and brown the lamb pieces in two batches. Remove and set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat to medium–high, add another tablespoon of oil and fry the onion, celery and carrot for 4–6 minutes or until the onions have softened.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Return the meat to the pot, along with the bay leaf and stock, season with kosher salt and ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and push the slices of potato down into and across the top of the stew, dot with the butter and give a final seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper. Cover and place in the oven to cook for about 1½ hours or until the meat is tender, then remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes until the potatoes have browned.

Serve the stew in deep bowls with crusty, buttered bread to mop up all the juices!  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

*minimally adapted from Donal Skehan’s beautiful recipe

Happy New Year’s Resolutions and a Bowl of Hoppin’ John

Good Luck Peas
New Year’s resolutions are notorious for being too lofty and often unmet.  I’ve resolved to make my resolutions more about matters of the heart this year, rather than focusing on one particular flaw that needs improving.  Because as I’ve learned the hard way over the past few months, external flaws or bad habits are results of a ruined heart.  They are results of being far away from the Creator and instead, closer to the creation.  So instead of losing weight or being more organized or improving my correspondence with friends, or whatever needs improvement, I will instead put these resolutions on my list for 2014, and like the scriptures promise, “all these things will be added to you.”

1. Work for Christ instead of approval of men
2. Speak less frequently and listen more
3. Seek the Kingdom first thing in the morning through prayer, quiet time or reading
4. Look to the needs of others first
5. Treat Matt, Olive and everyone I come in contact with, like Christ would if He were me.

That should keep me quite busy this year.  I know for certain that  a year lived in this way will yield joy, whether good or bad things happen to me externally.  I think I’ll type these out and review them daily.  So many good things fall under these simple rules.  Preparing and serving good food could technically fall under resolutions 1, 4 and 5.  Today, I had the joy of keeping a tradition running in my family and preparing a huge pot of black eyed peas for us to have for lunch, lest we miss out on a year of good luck. Of course I don’t believe in superstition or luck, but I do believe in traditions and I look forward to them and I especially look forward to them if they are served with ham hocks and buttered corn bread.

Growing up, my Mammaw would bring us fresh frozen black eyed peas from her garden and we’d have them buttered with chopped, sweet onions.  Nothing fancy, just your obligatory New Years peas!  A few years ago I made a pot of dried beans with lots of bacon and chicken stock and it was pretty life-changing and so I have stuck to the same recipe, more or less, every year since.

Today, I give you my recipe for New Years black eyed peas, or Hoppin’ John, or whatever else you want to call it.  In true Family Meal style, Matt and I both contributed to this recipe.  I got the beans going, Matt made the cornbread, and Olive kept us entertained with things she found out in the yard as we took down Christmas decor.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day – it’s the only January 1, 2014 you’ll ever get,  so by all means, live it well!

Hoppin' John

New Years Day – Hoppin’ John

16oz bag of dried beans (if you use fresh, you’ll get to skip the first step)
1 sweet, medium white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
3 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups hot stock – I used beef stock, but chicken or vegetable would work fine, too.
1 large ham hock, or about 8 ounces chopped bacon or ham

1 recipe of really great skillet cornbread

In a large bowl, submerge the peas in water by at least 2 inches and let sit over night or at least 6 hours.

Drain the beans and set aside, picking through to remove any bad ones.  In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil and let it start to bubble.  Add in the chopped vegetables and stir for about 10 minutes until they all begin to soften. Add in the black eyed peas and ham hock and stock and bring to a full boil.

Reduce heat and bring it down to an active simmer and let it cook on the stove, uncovered, for about 3 hours, until the beans are tender.  If you’re using fresh, you’ll probably only need to let it cook for 2, but just check occasionally for doneness.

Serve over cornbread with plenty of dashes of hot sauce and ring in the new year right!