Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Almost Meatless Virtual Potluck--Potato Corn Chowder


I met Tara Mataraza Desmond at the food writing symposium at The Greenbrier in May. Tara's book, which was published by Ten Speed Press in April is called Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet. It looks nice. I haven't read it, but Ten Speed always publishes lush, beautiful books, and Tara seems like she knows what she's talking about.

I also follow her blog, Crumbs on my Keyboard, and when she recently contacted me about taking part in a virtual potluck, where a whole bunch of food bloggers cook and blog a recipe from the book, and then everybody would publish it all on the same day, I said "cool idea. Just send me a recipe involving bacon."

So she did. But it also has silken tofu.

Of course, I left this until the last minute (it's supposed to be cooked, photographed, and blogged by tomorrow), and with all the other stuff I've been up to lately, I was pressed for time. First thing I had to figure out was where to go to buy good bacon (it only calls for two strips, so I figure I need to use the real stuff), the aforementioned tofu, as well as a fancy ingredient like chives. I didn't need to be going store to store to find stuff, so I was thinking that I was going to go to Whole Foods, but I doubted that they'd have real (read; cured) bacon, rather than that nitrate-free celery juice crap, so I headed over to Sunset Foods in Northbrook.

I make it a point to really never go to Whole Foods, because I spend way too much time and money in there, and the place just pisses me off out of general principle. I can't help but feel like I'm teetering on the brink of the fall of the empire when I'm in a WF, do you know what I mean? It's just such a big, overblown spectacle. It disgusts me, and yet I also love it. And then, later, I feel bad about loving it. Food shopping is just not meant to be that nice. I'd make an exception for this sort of thing, but to be honest, I'm relieved I thought of a better option.

Sunset is (or tries to be) just as fancy and upscale as WF, but they also carry everyday items like Diet Coke, Kraft cheeses, and Cheetos. I did indeed find good bacon (Neuske, long overdue review to come), silken tofu, and chives, so Sunset was the right place to go, but I wasn't overly impressed with their offerings. It's a high service place--they have people that put the food on the conveyor belt for you--but I'm much more interested in the food. I'm always game for a few impulse purchases in a new grocery store, but even though I hadn't eaten all day, nothing looked all that good to me, especially for the prices they were charging. I ended up with two pretty full brown paper sacks for around fifty bucks.

Besides the ingredients for the recipe, I picked up the makings for a salad, a loaf of sourdough bread to go along with it, and a few other things.


Almost Meatless' Potato Corn Chowder

Serves 4 to 6

2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice

6 ounces silken tofu

5 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

salt and pepper

1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

4 cups chicken stock (page 131)

1 bay leaf

3 (2-inch) pieces parmesan cheese rind

1 small bunch chives, minced

Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven or large saucepot over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the fat renders and the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon bits from the pot and set aside.

While the bacon is cooking, combine the tofu with 2 cups of the corn and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Add the onion to the bacon fat left in the pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the onion is completely softened but not brown.

Add the potatoes and the remaining 3 cups corn, along with a heavy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir to combine. Add the stock, bay leaf, and cheese rind, bring the liquid to a boil, and then reduce the heat; let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. Remove the cheese rind and bay leaf.

Working in batches, puree about half the soup in a blender or food processor. (Or blend partially with a stick blender in the pot.) Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the pureed tofu and corn mixture. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. Top with chives and reserved bacon bits.



I liked the flavor of soup. It had a lot of good sweet corn flavor. Basically, the jist of this recipe is that you take the silken tofu and puree it with the kernels from 3-4 ears of corn. This tofu "creamed corn" subs in for the cream and milk that would normally go into a chowder and makes the end result healthier.

By now, everyone knows that trick of cutting the kernels off the cob in a bowl, right? It works.


If I did this recipe again, I'd remove half the solids, then puree the soup well and add the chunks of corn and potato back into the soup. I pureed the whole thing a bit too far, I think, and the finished dish didn't have the characteristic chunkiness that you'd expect from a chowder. Doing it this way is easier (I just used my stick blender, rather than the food processor that the recipe calls for), but I think a smoother soup would be worth the effort.


It's hard for me to follow recipes. I found myself virtually unable to avoid adding some diced red bell pepper to the onions as they sauteed gently in the rendered bacon fat, although I did manage to restrict myself to only using Tara's proscribed two slices of bacon. Which wasn't easy. But it actually was enough since there was plenty of smoky bacon flavor throughout the soup.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the others bring to the virtual potluck!

2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

We are planning to host virtual pot luck with halloween theme .
http://epicureansdelight.blogspot.com/2010/10/halloween-virtual-pot-luck.html