Usually when I come across a new recipe and decide to make a dish, I do one of two things: I set aside the recipe, immediately add the newly required ingredients to my ongoing grocery list, and promptly buy said ingredients and get to work. Otherwise, I set the recipe aside in my “I’m going to make this soon” pile, and wait for the right opportunity, sometimes even waiting for the next round of guinea pigs, I mean company, to test out my newly discovered dish (against the advice of many). However, upon reading the recipe for Corn and Smoked Trout Chowder in the Boston Globe Magazine, neither of these two scenarios played out. I did attempt to gather all the ingredients right away and make this soup that very night, but Whole Foods only had Georgia corn.
Nothing personal, but here in Massachusetts we only have a few precious weeks of truly delicious, buttery, local corn (this particular week being one of them). I was not about to settle for this southern import, but being a Sunday, I was not aware of any urban farmers markets that were close by. Although I try to buy local produce as much as possible and occasionally have to cave to an onion from further afield, I refuse to do so with corn. I grew up in a home with parents who treat corn very seriously. My father connoisseurs corn like most do wine. I remember scenic trips to the farmstand as a child so we could have the freshest corn with our meal, the stipulations being that corn must be local, only consumed between July and September, after the meal, and never with jazzed up accoutrements such as a compound butter. Butter, salt, and pepper were the only options on our dinner table.
And then……I happened to marry a man whose corn obsession may even trump Dad’s. Not only does the hubby LOVE corn unconditionally, but he eats it NAKED–no butter, no salt, rien! And although he is not quite as strict as Dad about seasonality, I think that is because he can’t bear to only eat corn during those few special weeks in summer’s peak….but I digress.
The following Sunday morning, after what seemed like days of compiling ingredients (second attempt at local corn was successful at my local farmers market, and then just one more trip for clam juice!), I set to work early because I had plans in the afternoon with my mother and wanted to have everything ready before leaving home and well before the season premiere of the Amazing Race that evening. I prepped all my veggies and organized the ingredients, only to find that my corn was rotten. A quick call to the hubby, who was golfing out in the suburbs, and he saved the day by picking up some gloriously pale and small-kernelled cobs at Land’s Sake Farm. I had no choice but to finish the chowder after my plans, and even though it was late in the day and we were starving, we had the benefit of including my mom’s homegrown thyme and the third batch of corn–and the wait was well worth it. Creamy and rich, this chowder is DELICIOUS and is a complete meal with the protein-packed trout and crunchy corn. The smoked paprika is delicate enough, but I don’t think the dish would be the same without this smoky, well-rounded flavor. And we still made it in time for the Amazing Race.
Corn and Smoked Trout Chowder (Adapted from the Boston Globe Magazine, September 19, 2010)
6 cups corn kernels (uncooked) cut off 6 medium ears (need I say local corn, wherever you are!)
2 cups milk (whole is preferable)
4 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 quart fish stock or 3 cups clam juice with 1 cup water (I used the clam juice and water)
3 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, about 4 cups (recipe recommends peeled, but I left skin on)
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. smoked trout, broken into large flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a blender, puree 2 cups of the corn with the milk until smooth, and set aside. In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until rendered and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Leaving fat in pot, remove bacon, drain and cool it, crumble, and set aside. Return pot to medium heat, and if using turkey bacon, you may need to add some olive oil for lack of enough fat. Add the onion, celery, and a pinch of salt, stirring frequently until soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and paprika, and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add stock or clam juice and water and potatoes, increase the heat to high, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the potato cubes begin to soften, about 12 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium, stir in the cream, smoked trout, corn puree, remaining corn kernels, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste, then cover the pot, return to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally to warm soup and blend flavors, about 10 minutes.
Taste soup to adjust seasoning if necessary, stir in parsley, and serve, garnishing with the bacon.