Air of Invincibility
January 26, 2008
Some funny things happen to you when you become a food blogger, apparently. For one thing, you feel guilty when you make something for dinner after you’ve already blogged about it, even if it’s one of your very favorite, most old-standby meals. For another, you find yourself completely rearranging your schedule in order to make things in the afternoon, hours before you’ll eat them, because—duh—that’s when the light is most pretty in your apartment, allowing you to stage a full-blown photo shoot. And, trust me, it’s a little weird to put the final touches on a post about short ribs while you’re eating breakfast. And it’s downright torture to write about ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls while you’re eating the yogurt-with-grapefruit-segments-breakfast that you love, love, love on any other morning.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
But there are also the things that are just so, so good. For instance, my “must cook/bake” file fattens at an astonishing rate, assuring me I will never, ever get through it (a fact that, in turn, delights me). And when I see my friends, they suddenly want to tell me about the dinner they made the other night (and I love to listen). And my sister, she of the deep Lean Cuisine love, has made a New Year’s resolution to cook more often; she’s gotten started with recipes from this site. Best of all, this food blogging thing has given me an air of invincibility. There are so many things that I used to be afraid of making. Now, there’s pretty much nothing that intimidates me. And I’m downright reckless when it comes to creating my own recipes.
Really, all it took was hearing back from people who have tried some of my original recipes on the site, to great success. And all of the sudden, I can hardly glance at a recipe without considering the make-over that will make it even better … and almost nothing that I eat out that I don’t immediately start planning to re-create. That’s where this corn chowder comes in—it’s based on a lunch I recently adored at a great place down the street.
Just like Vella’s butternut squash-corn chowder, I wanted something with a creamy, but not too heavy, texture—so I used a combination of milk and flour and pureed butternut squash instead of cream. And to emulate its kick, I spiked mine with jalapenos and threw in some mild peppers too, for good measure. I also wanted a chowder whose components were still visibly in tact, so I pulsed only half the soup, leaving the other half nice and chunky, and added a couple handfuls of plump corn kernels at the very end. I was thrilled with the outcome—sweet and spicy nuggets suspended in a luxuriously creamy chowder.
Spicy Butternut Squash-Corn Chowder
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium jalapeno, minced
1 medium mild chile (like Anaheim), minced
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and small diced (1/4-inch)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
4 cups frozen corn, divided
Garnish: sliced green onions and a dallop of Greek yogurt or sour cream
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, peppers and squash; saute for about five minutes, until the vegetables are slightly browned. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and paprika; cook for one minutes, stirring continuously. Add the chicken stock; bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Place the flour in a large bowl. While whisking the flour, slowly pour in the milk; whisk until the mixture is combined. Add the milk-flour mixture and 2 cups of corn to the soup; simmer for 10 minutes, or until the soup has thickened.
In a food processor or blender, pulse half the soup (note: you can pulse more or less of the soup for a smoother or chunkier consistency). Return the pulsed half of the soup to the chunky half of the soup. Add the remaining two cups of corn; stir to combine. Cook for several minutes, until the newly-added corn is heated through. Serve with sliced green onions and a dallop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Note: the soup chills and re-heats very well; can be made up to a day in advance.