Monday, January 12, 2009

"The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper" - Corn Chowder

Date I made this recipe: January 11, 2009
The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper – Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio’s Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift
Published by: Clarkson Potter/Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-307-34671-1
Recipe: Corn Chowder – p. 62-63

Year ago I was sitting in my car, listening to Minnesota Public Radio when I heard a voice that sounded suspiciously like the late actress, Marilyn Monroe…except it wasn’t.

“Hi, she breathed, it’s Lynne Rose-etto Kas-purrrrrr and you’re listening to The Splendid Table….”

Lynne who? Splendid Table what? I didn’t know what to think except “what is with that voice?” It was half sexy “come hither,” half nails on a chalk board! For the longest time, I used to go around mimicking her (and dare I say, not in a good way), pretending I was the Marilyn Monroe of the cooking world. Radio announcers were not supposed to be sexy or sound pretentious, they were supposed to be…well, radio announcers!

And yet I tuned in, week after week, month after month, year after year to listen to the woman whose voice initially drove me nuts because what she had to say about food was fascinating and her guests were fascinating and her stories were fascinating.

Over time, Lynne lost that Marilyn “Happy Birthday Mr. President” Monroe sound as she became more comfortable in her own (radio) shoes and I became much more comfortable listening to her as well, much in the same way that Julia Child eventually grew on me and the rest of America. (Although I doubt anyone ever likened Julia Child to Marilyn Monroe.)

Now I have to confess that I a) have met Lynne on several occasions (she’s very nice) where she b) autographed her cookbooks for me and c) answered one question years ago about borlotti beans while she was doing a live broadcast from the Twin Cities’ Food and Wine Extravaganza (I have to confess that at the time, I accidentally Stumped the Cook – a regular feature on her radio show—but that was before borlotti beans were as easily obtainable as they are now). And yet, I was reluctant to blog about one of her recipes because a) I’m half Sicilian and while I collect all kinds of cookbooks, I have been reluctant, until recently, to try someone else’s “family” recipes, b) what if I made one of her Italian recipes and screwed it up or c) what if I made it properly but (gasp) didn’t like it? The horror, the horror! All of this is made worse because Lynne and I live in the same town and she could track me down and a) cut me up for stew meat? (I have a vivid imagination!) b) never speak to me again…not that we speak at all but I can dream, can’t I? c) ruin my chances to ever make an appearance on her show (Lynne, I promise you I am quite.the.whit) or d) make sure I never cook or blog in this town again!

And so people, I cheated. Rather than go out on a limb and make a dish from either of her two-Italian cookbooks, I made a “safe” Corn Chowder recipe from her newest cookbook, The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper (in my family, we called it dinner but here in Minnesota, it’s definitely supper time). This recipe was easy-peasy and was (big sigh of relief here) de-licious!

Selecting a dish from Lynne’s (and Sally Swift, her producer) cookbook wasn’t difficult because people, I love, love, love corn chowder but am never really sure when to make it—is it a fall dish, a winter warm-up or is summertime the right time to make it using fresh corn? I tend to be a soup/stew/chowder/roast type of gal and for me that means winter but this dish was so refreshing (and light) that it would clearly work well during the height of corn season.

Lynne wrote that “this recipe begs for variations” and so I added diced chicken to my dish. You can add seafood or more potatoes—the choice is yours. (Garrison Keillor, he of A Prairie Home Companion fame, wrote something even funnier that Lynne included in the book: “People have tried and they have tried, but sex is not better than sweet corn.” I’ll let you chew on that one a while.)

By the way, Lynne’s radio show, The Splendid Table, can be accessed via the internet at (Check out the archives for previous broadcasts) Locally, I listen to her on Saturday afternoons on 91.1 FM from 2-3 p.m. Jane and Michael Stern (subject of last week’s blog) kick off the first five minutes of the show with their restaurant and food reviews and I have been known to pull off into a shopping center parking lot to sit in my idling car until their piece is done. If you see a woman sitting all by herself, cracking up laughing in a green Honda, that would be me, folks! But mostly I wait for the (now normal) voice: “Hi. It’s Lynne Rossetto Kasper and you’re listening to The Splendid Table….”

Corn Chowder – Serves 4
4 slices bacon, sliced into 1/8-inch-wide pieces
2 tablespoons good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil (okay, I can’t resist this: “good-tasting” as opposed to bad-tasting??!)
1 medium to large onion, chopped into ½-inch dice
2 bay leaves, broken
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste
1 medium (7 ounces) red-skin potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice (Note: I used some Yukon gold that I had at home and left the skin on for the vitamins)
4 large garlic cloves, coarse chopped
1 recipe Cheater’s Homemade Broth (p. 48) or two 14-ounce cans chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound (3 1/3 cups) Niblets frozen corn with no sauce; or kernels from 8 ears fresh corn
2 cups milk or cream, or a blend of both
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
*I added I cooked, diced chicken breast

Put the bacon, olive oil, onion, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper in a 6-quart pot. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the potato, garlic, and broth. Cover the pot tightly and simmer the soup over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the potato is tender.

Stir in the corn, milk or cream, and Tabasco. Remove from the heat. Pull out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. With a slotted spoon, transfer about one-third of the solids to a food processor or blender. Blend for a few seconds to crush the corn. Return the mix to the pot.

Heat the chowder to a bubble, and taste it for seasoning. Serve immediately (so the corn doesn’t overcook), topped with the parsley.

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