Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Corn Chowder: All-American for the 4th of July

Corn is an all-American grain, domesticated by Native Americans (those living in Mexico) and it spread from there into the Southwestern US and beyond. Americans eat a lot of it, much of it indirectly as it is primarily used for animal feed.

Just so happens that the 4th of July coincides with the start of corn season in many places (not Colorado; we need to wait until the end of July). But, there will be plenty of corn on the cob throughout the country for the 4th as it is shipped all over. I prefer the local stuff because nothing beats picked-that-day corn on the cob. For this chowder, it will be better with fresh corn but frozen corn will do just fine too. Here's a short video showing how you cut the kernels off a cob of corn. It's not difficult but you need a sharp knife. Though I don't do this in a bowl, I recommend you do. This will keep the kernels from jumping all over the place. If you do cut it in a bowl, you'll need to use a short knife, like a small chef's knife or a paring knife.

This is a simple chowder that you can make in about 30 minutes. The red bell pepper is a nice splash of color but you can leave it out. I just happened to have ½ a pepper and threw it in.

Corn Chowder
(serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a light entree, costs $6.30)

4 Tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion or ½ a sweet onion, chopped finely
3 stalks celery, chopped finely
½ a medium red bell pepper, chopped finely (optional)
2 Tablespoons flour
3 cups whole or low-fat milk
kernels from 3 ears of fresh corn or 1 10 oz. package of frozen corn, thawed
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
about 1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until soft but do not brown. Stir in the flour and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the milk and stir until blended. Add the corn and ½ teaspoon salt and cook for 15 minutes. The corn will still be slightly crunchy. If you like it softer, cook it longer until it gets to the texture you like. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese. Stir until until the cheese is melted. Don't boil or the cheese will get grainy. Taste and season with a pinch of grated nutmeg, the rest of the salt, and black pepper.

From America's Best, a National Community Cookbook to Benefit the US Ski Team, 1983. It's out of print now but it's still one of my favorites.

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