Sunday, August 09, 2009

Corn Kernels, Corn Kernels Everywhere.

The corn chowder experiment was simultaneously success and ... not such a success. I chose to make corn chowder -- something I can't ever remember eating -- because it called for five ears of corn; no other recipe I found would use up that much corn as quickly and since waiting much longer would send my prior purchase of five ears of corn into the territory of Everclear Pure Grain Alcohol I decided that it was time to try corn chowder.

My mother loves Michigan sweetcorn. When I was a child she would coo and aw over it when she made it. If she saw a roadside stand on a country road in the month of July she'd make my father pull over. In my mind the best part of it wasn't the eating but the husking. My mother would set up a brown paper bag on the front steps of our house and bring out the ears of corn still in their green husks on a giant platter and we'd pull away the tight green leaves and send corn silk flying everywhere. The next morning I'd go out to play and there'd still be corn silk on the walk.

It was little wonder my mother never let us husk the corn in her kitchen, but I have no such luxury in my current apartment. Instead I tried my best to be careful and peeled off the husks over my kitchen trashcan. The cat, ever fascinated by this cooking-thing that takes my attention away from her, came to sit beside the trashcan and watch me. Most of the corn silk made it into the trashcan. I managed to sweep up that that floated away, but I have no idea what happened to all the corn silk that settled on the cat.

My next Herculean task was getting the corn off the cob.

Cutting corn off the cob looks so easy when they do it on Top Chef. Even under pressure and pressed for time they simply go woosh, woosh, woosh with the knife and the corn kernels are in the bowl. That is not how it actually works.

Corn kernels, corn kernels everywhere.

I thought I got them all but this morning I found one in the cat food bowl.

The little buggers do not fall simply to the board, they ping around everywhere. It's less like cutting a vegetable and more like releasing several hundred little springs. Cutting around a soft spot on the cob I cam across a handy little trick: slice off only the bottom half of the cob, then turn it upside down and do the other half so that the kernels don't have as much air time before hitting the board.

Sadly, I was already on the third ear of corn when I figured this out and even then it wasn't perfect so I stole a technique from my field hockey days. In field hockey when you're receiving a pass you tilt your stick forward, leaving the head of the stick on the ground and pushing the handle away from your body so that the ball is trapped by the acute angle of stick and ground. This is extremely important because if the angle is obtuse the ball (more often than not) rolls up your stick like it's a ramp. I've seen a girl get a black eye this way. Okay, okay, I gave a girl a black eye this way but it really wasn't my fault she had bad technique. Back to the corn cob: using the same principle I decided that as I sliced kernels off the bottom half of the cob I would tilt it at an angle making the distance between board and cob even shorter. It might not have been the best for "kitchen safety" but it was much, much better for kernel bombardment.

The chowder itself came out of the Better Homes & Gardens big-ass giant cookbook. You know the one I'm talking about. It's got a red plaid cover on it to look like a table cloth and though it's been updated that table cloth motif hasn't changed in 60 years. I call it the cooking bible because it lays down all the rules about everything, every basic that all other cooking books assume you know. I'm willing to bet that there's one in your kitchen that someone bought you when you (a) got married or (b) moved out on your own.

After all this process, you have to remember that I've never tried corn chowder. The verdict? Well ... it's okay. It tastes fine but I don't think vegetable chowders are my thing. Now clam chowder? Bring it on!

The last ingredient to go in the pot is three strips of crispy, crumbled up bacon. And let me say this, everything does indeed taste better with bacon.

Highly Recommended