Chef Jack’s Corn Chowder

I’m posting this recipe here because I’ve had a lot of requests for it since I posted it on my Instagram account.  To be honest, this recipe is not particularly innovative or demanding of a specialized cooking technique, it’s just a solid, basic chowder recipe that any home cook could create for himself/herself.  What I like about it is that the magic that happens in this recipe,which  happens in every recipe where you use the freshest-possible ingredients and cook and prepare them in such a way that shows them off and makes them shine.  I really love making basic food taste incredible.  To me, that’s the essence of being a good cook.  Yes, I can do complicated, yes I can do architecture, yes I can cook exotic, and I enjoy all those things.  I also enjoy creating sublime flavors with the simple.

This recipe is originally from Paula Deen.  I am a HUGE Paula Deen fan, which for those of you who know me, might come as a bit of a surprise, as I’ve been a vegetarian for 187 years now, and I cook with twice as much TVP (textured vegetable protein, for the uninitiated) and tofu as I do butter.  But what I LOVE about Paula Deen, and what I’ve loved about her since the second I laid eyes on her on The Food Network all those years ago was her love.  She stopped me dead in my tracks and completely captivated me with her love for food and her love for her people.  “That’s how I want to cook!”, I said to myself.  “That’s what I want people to see when they see my food and taste when they taste my food.  It’s the LOVE.”  It also absolutely cracked me up that she started EVERY recipe with “a stick uh’butter”.  Made me laugh.  Still does.  She’s right though, butter DOES add a flavor dimension to a dish.  Remember this food axiom my friends, “fat adds flavor”.  We don’t necessarily need to eat large quantities of butter enriched foods, but it’s an undeniably food science fact that fat adds flavor.

So anyway, here we are at Paula Deen’s “Chef Jack’s Corn Chowder”.  I believe Chef Jack is one of her dear friends whom she had on her show back in the day, and they had so much fun making it together, and it just looked so yummy I had to go to the website and print it out for myself, and it’ s been in my arsenal ever since.

If there are any particular “tricks” to this dish, I would say it’s in NOT cooking the Holy Trinity (carrots, onions, celery; the triunal foundation of many, many soups and sauces) to death.  The vegetables (corn included) were cooked, but still crunchy, and add a nice contrast to the creaminess of the soup.  I used fresh corn, as I happen to live 40 miles from the source of Olathe Sweet Corn and we are smack-dab in the middle of the corn harvest. Also, when the recipe calls for nutmeg, use fresh (always, always grate your own nutmeg).  And, as always, use hand ground sea salt & black pepper at the end.  Yes, there is such a thing as stale black pepper and no, you don’t want to have anything to do with that business (ask your mom how long she’s had that tin of ground black pepper in her spice cabinet, I dare ya).  Other than those few thoughts, this is a basic cream based soup, that starts with a roux, and will taste exceptionally good if you use exceptionally fresh veggies.

Chef Jack’s Corn Chowder

1 cup (2sticks) butter

1 small onion, diced

1 small celery stalk, diced

1 small carrot, finely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup AP flour

3 cups white corn kernels, fresh or forzen

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups half & half

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

 

Melt one of the sticks of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the flour and stir to make a roux.  Cook until the roux is lightly browned; set aside to cool to room temperature.

 

Meanwhile, combine the corn and chicken stock in another saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Pour the boiling stock with the corn (a little at a time) into the saucepan with the roux, whisking briskly so it doesn’t lump.  Return the skillet to the heat and bring to a boil.  The mixture should become very thick.

 

In a small saucepan, gently heat the half & half; stir it into the thick corn mixture.  Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste.  Just before serving, cut the remaining stick of butter into large chunks.  Add it to enrich the soup, stirring until the butter melts.  (I didn’t add more butter at the end, as the last thing I need in my diet is MORE fat…..but hey, if anyone’s ever said to you, “Eat some butter you bean-pole!”, feel free)

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