The Boy: “This corn chowder is amazing!”
The Husband: “Wow! All it’s missing is the clams.”
Silly Husband. It’s Corn Chowder. But he’s not far off base with his comment, because this is Julia Child’s New England Corn Chowder, made with a traditional New England chowder base of salt pork, onions, and potatoes, finished with milk. The Husband is a native New Englander, so one can’t fault him for recognizing a chowder when he eats one. As for The Boy, his chowder disappeared after he spontaneously offered his opinion.
My work here is done.
New England Corn Chowder-Julia Child (The Way To Eat)
4 oz diced salt pork
2 T butter
3 cups sliced onions
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup crumbled “common” crackers or pilot biscuit; or crumbs from fresh homemade type white bread
4 cups liquid; clam-steaming juices and water; or water and fish stock; or light chicken broth
1 pound sliced or diced “boiling” potatoes (3-3 1/2 cups)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 cups milk and/or light cream
10 to 12 ears of fresh corn, grated; or 2 1/2 to 3 cups (20 to 24 ounces) cream-style canned or frozen corn
2 red or green bell peppers, chopped and sauteed briefly in butter; sour cream for topping the chowder
It wasn’t a lot of work. The corn part took the longest, and then the chowder just sort of happened, thanks to the magic of putting heat to butter and salt pork. But the corn part, you just gotta plow on through that.
Julia suggests using a corn grater(?Whaaaa?), or slicing each corn cob’s row of kernels down the middle with a paring knife, then cutting the pulpy corn kernels off with a chef’s knife. The recipe calls for 10-12 ears of corn.
You do the math; how many rows of kernels times how many cobs equals not happening in my kitchen! I compromised by cutting the kernels off the cobs very shallowly, and then using the back of a butter knife, scraping all the remaining pulp and milky juice off each cob. I gave the corn one last feverish pass with the chef’s knife, to chop it down further.
This was messy.
On to the cooking:
The diced salt pork, having been blanched in simmering water for 5 min., and drained, goes into a saucepan with 1 T of butter, to do a happy dance until it has begun to brown.
Next, add the onions and bay leaf, stir, stick your head in and breathe in the fumes, reluctantly cover the pot, turn down the heat a bit and cook the onions for 8-10 min., so they are softened but not browned.
Take the lid off the pot, stick your head in it again (it’s better this time, I could’ve just eaten this for dinner), remember what you’re doing, and stir in the crushed common crackers.
What are common crackers you ask? Well, I didn’t know either, until I started researching New England cooking, but here they are:
I have not seen these outside New England. They are used in some of the oldest recipes I have read, to thicken chowders. So pretty traditional. You can get them in a couple grocery stores here, order them from Vermont Country Store online, or you can use oyster crackers, or low-salt saltines. If you have to.
Next, stir in your liquid and your potatoes. I used light chicken broth, and a combination of red potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes, diced. Loosely cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are tender. You might think the cracker crumbs look odd, but don’t worry, they are a part of the magic. While that’s happening, quickly saute your finely chopped red pepper in 1 T of butter, just until soft and fragrant. If you indeed chopped finely, this takes no more than a minute or two.
Once your potatoes are tender, stir in the milk, corn, and peppers, and heat through. Sorry I don’t have a picture of that step, it happened so fast, and I was hungry. The fumes, you know.
This chowder is amazing. The corn flavor is right in the forefront, the onions are sweet and tender, almost melting into the broth, but still with some texture. The cracker crumbs have disappeared into the broth, adding great body. The dairy was balanced well, not overwhelming the corn, and the bay leaf and salt pork added just enough depth of flavor so it’s not too sweet. The peppers are a happy, bright touch of flavor at the end, and a lovely color.
I’d do this again. Even the corn part wouldn’t keep me from making this again; it’s totally worth the effort. And The Dog will be happy to help out with the clean-up again, I’m sure. She’s such a good dog.
See you on down the Road.