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French Fridays with Dorie: Corn Soup

It’s a new month with a new schedule of recipes for French Fridays with Dorie, and the first recipe on deck for September is Corn Soup. I don’t know what the rest of the month will bring, but I’d say we started off with a winner!

It doesn’t hurt that corn is in its prime right now. To be honest, at my house, corn doesn’t usually get any special treatment. It just gets eaten as steamed corn on the cob, no butter. My husband Howard is in his glory. He’s been eating two or three ears of corn every day since some time in August. I don’t have quite the same passion, but I eat one ear most days.

This is the second corn soup I made this week. I made chicken corn chowder during Tropical Storm Irene last weekend, before I knew Corn Soup was this week’s FFwD assignment. The two soups were completely different so it didn’t seem repetitive. Plus it was fun to compare them. My chowder was a hearty meal soup with chunks of chicken, corn and potatoes. Dorie’s Corn Soup was lighter and smoother, more of a starter, and tasted purely of corn.

The recipe starts with cutting the kernels off of the corn cobs. Then, the corn cobs steep in hot milk (I used 1%, not whole) to extract every last bit of corny flavor from the corn. A sweet onion is sautéed in butter along with some sliced carrots and celery and the corn kernels. Finally, the corny milk (with the cobs) and some herbs are added to the pot, and it simmers for a while. After extracting the cobs and herb stems and bay leaf, I pureed the soup in the blender.

A taste told me the soup was delicious, but I didn’t like the texture of the pureed corn kernels. It felt a little fussy, but I strained the soup. It was worth the effort. The result was a pot of silken gold.

Dorie suggested a variety of garnishes to choose from. I topped our steaming bowls with chopped bacon, scallions, sliced jalapenos, and a few slow-roasted tomatoes. All the contrasting flavors made a party in our mouths.

We followed the soup with a tomato tart. More on that later this weekend.

We’re asked not to post the recipes for the French Fridays selections. You can find them all in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. The Summer Corn Soup recipe is already available here on Epicurious. You can also read about the other FFwD blogger’s experience with this recipe here.

Next week we’ll be making. Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach. Stop by again next Friday to see how it came out.

Chowder for Irene

What a weird weekend. Because of the impending storm, we planned to spend a rare summer weekend at home. On Saturday, I dashed around madly trying to cram all my weekend errands into one day. The highlight was a visit to the Waltham Farmers Market, a favorite, but one I can rarely visit because it’s on Saturdays when we are usually in Maine. We stocked up on bountiful produce: tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, corn, colorful carrots, peaches, nectarines, plums, and more. My favorite find was the cookie lady at ButterGirl Baking. We sampled a few kinds and settled on Brown Sugar Shortbread for me and Double Chocolate for Howard. Yum!

The predictions for the storm were serious. There were shutdowns in New York City, train service was suspended on the Northeast Corridor, and my in-laws had to leave the NJ shore under mandatory evacuation. Several reverse 911 calls from our town urged us to “shelter in place”. So we settled in and waited for the fury to arrive.

What do you do with a “summer snow day”? My house was in desperate need of cleaning, so that was on the list. Pile of books and magazines beckoned to me. And, of course, how could I spend an entire day at home without cooking? With all my running around on Saturday, I hadn’t really “planned” for any specific recipes. That made it more fun to pull together something with what we had around. It wasn’t like the cupboard was bare, so there were many choices to work with.

With frightful weather outside, it seemed like the perfect day for a hearty soup, not what I would normally expect to crave in August. I was tempted by the many ears of fresh sweet corn. There was also leftover roasted chicken in the refrigerator and freshly dug potatoes. I also found a nearly full bottle of cream and its expiration date hadn’t passed. Everything needed to inspire a corn chowder.

Chipotle Chicken Corn Chowder
Serves 6

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 lb waxy potatoes, unpeeled, diced into ½-inch pieces
1 quart chicken broth
Kernels from 4 ears of corn
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 or 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, pureed
1½ cups light cream
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, add the olive oil and butter, and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the onions, and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are just tender. Add the corn kernels, diced chicken, pureed chipotles, and cream. Simmer another 10 minutes until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In the end, we were relatively unscathed by the storm, at least here in Lexington. The wind and rain were wild at times. I was nervous when Howard took Bella out to walk. (For better or worse, I have a dog who will not even consider using her yard as a toilet.) Unlike friends across town, we didn’t lose power, so passed a relatively normal day. The yard was littered with small twigs and branches, but no trees came down. The basement stayed dry. Two days later, there are still people in my town without power, so I’m feeling fortunate.

How we fared in Maine is a different story. A tree fell across power lines on our road, knocking out the electrical service and making travel to the main road dangerous for those that need to pass under that tree to get in or out. Current projection for restored power is Saturday, but there are no guarantees. Unfortunately, most of our neighbors are year-round residents rather than the weekenders we are, so they have no escape. We’ll go up this weekend to check out the situation. We’re hoping that the skylights we left ajar didn’t let in too much water. At the very least, we need to go empty out the freezer, which should be quite ripe by the weekend.

All in all, I am incredibly thankful. It could have been much, much worse. My heart goes out to everyone left in the wake of Irene’s destruction.