In the seven weeks since I walked away from my legal career, I have caught up on years’ worth of lost sleep, spent time with family and friends I had neglected over the past five years, reminded my body what it is like to exercise regularly, watched all four seasons of Mad Men, enjoyed more than my share of Southern California sunshine, and taken steps toward starting my own business, among other things. But as lovely as this time off has been, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for what is on tap for tomorrow – my first day of culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Los Angeles. It’s been several years since I’ve had to prepare myself for a first day of school, of course, but the emotions are as familiar as ever – excitement, anticipation, hope, and a tinge of anxiety. And I find that I still deal with those emotions in the same way – by laying out my freshly pressed clothes (in this case, a highly unflattering uniform that involves a boxy white coat and black and white houndstooth pants with an elastic waistband) and preparing a comforting meal. Tonight’s meal, composed almost entirely from the contents of my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery, provides that much-needed comfort by capturing the very essence of end-of-summer flavors. Give it a try. You’ll see what I mean…
Spicy Corn and Potato Chowder
- 3 ears fresh corn
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 medium bell peppers (I used green and chocolate – use two different colors of your liking), minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 small yukon gold (or other small) potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
- Freshly ground pepper and sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- A handful of fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Shuck the corn and, using a sharp paring knife, cut the kernels from the cobs. Set the kernels aside. You should end up with about 2 cups of kernels.
Place the corn cobs in a medium pot, add the water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Remove the cobs and strain the liquid into a medium bowl using a fine mesh sieve.
Return the pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and potatoes and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute the vegetables over medium-high heat until they start to soften. Add the cayenne pepper and cumin and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir to coat. Slowly stir in the vegetable broth, the cream, and about half of the corn broth. Add about 2/3 of the corn kernels. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fully soft, about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup until smooth using either an immersion blender or an upright blender or food processor. Add the remaining corn kernels and simmer an additional 5 minutes or so. Stir in additional corn broth if the soup is too thick, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle equal amounts of the soup into 4 large soup bowls and top with a small handful of fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with crusty grilled bread and a big, cold glass of stainless steel fermented Chardonnay.