Last week we had a national magazine shoot their feature food story in our home. So I hung my apron for a few days and let the kitchen be taken over by the professionals. While that may sound glamorous, it was anything but. A production of that caliber includes intense, twelve-hour days of non-stop shooting. Fortunately, for me, this time I could be a fly on the wall during the shoot and watch the crew (including food editors and writers, a food stylist, a photographer and tech assistant, creative director and prop stylists) at work. It was so fun to watch the flurry of food consume the house and backyard; it was both exhilarating and, yet, exhausting to watch.
In their aftermath, we inherited an excessive amount of ingredients (woohoo!), which left me reeling as I tried to conjure what to do with four heads of cabbage and a dozen ears of corn.
Opting for a one-dish dinner, I made a sort of cabbage and corn chowder that was hearty like a potato soup but relatively healthy in that the majority of ingredients were vegetables.
Corn and Cabbage Chowder:
- 2 heads of cabbage (first pull off the outer layer to reveal the fresh head, chop them in half and take a triangular wedge out of the center – this is the core and is too tough (and bland) to eat. Then, I sliced the halves which slivers itself when the leaves separated; making roughly 6 cups of chopped cabbage.)
- 10 ears of shucked corn (I used 9 in the soup, and saved one for garnish. As you can see in this photo, we’d started making a dent in our corn supply last night by grilling some. So we had 3 grilled ears of corn leftover which I used for the soup in addition to 7 uncooked ears. To remove the kernels from the cob, take your knife almost parallel to the ear on a cutting board and let the cob guide you: If it’s slipping through the kernels then you’re probably only getting their surfaces and not enough flesh, so take your knife deeper in and slice down; if it’s hard to slice, then you’re probably too close to the core of the cob which will give you a tough, chewy kernel not ideal for eating. Your knife should swiftly cascade down the sides of the ears – making a nice mess of corn kernels on your chopping board. The corn came to roughly 3 cups of kernels.)
- 3 slices of chopped bacon
- 1/2 cup chopped onion (I used these locally grown onions, but any would do, based on your preference or what you have around. Shallots would also add a more subtle taste to compliment the cream nicely.)
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup water
- Optional: To crank up the heat (personally, I love creamy, rich foods that are balanced with spice) add a dash of chopped dried red pepper or a couple tablespoons of spicy dijon mustard. I opted for the latter, which added another dimension to the soup. Just don’t be shy about adding herbs or spices. This soup is hearty and creamy enough to handle a decent amount of heat. Or, if you’re uncertain about the flavors mixing well, pull out a ladle-full of soup and add an herb or spice to that ladle, stir and taste. If you don’t care for it, you only lose a ladle-full of your soup; or put it back in the soup and the spice will be swallowed by the other flavors. No one will ever know.)
- Handful of fresh flat parsley (or really, any herb would do. For a heartier, more rustic soup, I would’ve added some fresh chopped rosemary to the sautéing onions to bring out its aroma before adding the rest of the ingredients.)
Directions: Cook the chopped bacon in the bottom of a large pot. Once browned, add the onions or shallots. When the onions are soft and slightly translucent (about five minutes) add the corn to toast the uncooked kernels. After two-three minutes, add the cabbage and liquids. Generously salt and pepper your pot and stir the ingredients. Don’t be afraid if the liquids don’t cover all the cabbage. Their leaves will soften as they cook and will wilt down to a proper ratio of veggie to liquid. Cover this at medium heat and cook for about 20-25 minutes, checking intermittently to stir the ingredients. Toward the end, add your fresh herbs and/or spices. After another five minutes your veggies should be well cooked. Now, blend half of the soup to reach your desired consistency. If you find you need more liquid, add more stock, water or milk (depending on your preference). I used a hand blender similar to this, which allowed me to do it right in the pot while on the stove. But ladling half your soup into a countertop blender would also be sufficient. After this I turned off the stove, covered the pot and let it steep while I made the topping.
For the topping I used the corn of one of the grilled ears, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1/4 cup sour cream, chopped fresh chives and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Mix the ingredients together until you reach your desired consistency, salt it to taste and add to the top of a warm bowl of soup, finishing with more fresh chopped flat parsley and chives (if you choose). But a simple dash of yogurt or just chopped herbs or simply fresh ground pepper would all be great here. I liked the contrast of cool, crunchy topping to the warm, smooth soup. Homemade croutons would also be a yummy topper.
I can’t wait to share what the magazine did with the corn and cabbage! But you’ll have to wait until the issue comes out in July…. For now, make some chowder to stay warm through this extended winter. Summer will be here soon.
PS: I still have two heads of cabbage left. What else can I make?