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Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2005

As warm weather wanes, comfort food takes the front burner

August 24, 2005

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When the temperatures are still in the 80s and daylight-saving time is prolonging the sunlight every day, it's difficult to imagine that autumn is nearly upon us. But with the inevitable change in taste and appetite that comes in September, the foods we prefer will be just a bit heavier.

Although corn is a mid-summer vegetable, I have always felt that most hot dishes that feature corn belong to the fall and winter. My mother made a very filling corn pudding during the colder months, and perhaps this childhood orientation toward corn stuck with me. In any case, in my frame of reference corn off the cob is not a warm-weather food.

Years ago I discovered a tasty corn chowder recipe that is fairly quick to prepare and is really a meal in itself. The recipe is from "Colorado Cache," the Junior League of Denver's first cookbook, which was published in 1978 but remains a steady seller. My own copy is so well-used that the laminate cover has broken off.

Some of the book's recipes show their age through the absence of ingredients that are now more common (fresh ginger, for example), the predominance of beef and the frequent use of prepared and canned foods, but "Colorado Cache" still has a place on the kitchen shelf.

This corn chowder falls snugly into the category of comfort food. I've also made this recipe by substituting either ham or bacon for the salt pork, and leeks for the onions.

Corn Chowder

1/2 cup diced salt pork

2 slices onion

1 small bay leaf

4-5 sprigs parsley

Pinch of dried sage

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup raw, diced potatoes

2 cups hot water

3 tablespoons flour

2 1/2 cups corn kernels

2 cups scalded milk

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon butter

Paprika for garnish

In a large saucepan, lightly brown salt pork. Add onion slices and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add bay leaf, parsley, sage, salt and pepper. Stir in raw potatoes and hot water and cook the mixture until potatoes are tender. Thicken mixture with flour mixed with a little cold water or milk. Add corn kernels and scalded milk to the potato mixture. Bring chowder to a boil and remove saucepan from heat. Just before serving, mix a little of the chowder liquid with egg yolks and butter and stir this mixture into the chowder. Sprinkle the chowder with paprika and serve very hot.

Makes 6 servings.

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