After the horrendous heat wave (that we mostly escaped with the good grace and serendipity of an unrented vacation house), we came home at the end of the weekend to the most curious clouds and much, much cooler weather. Nearly 40 degrees difference from the day before, in the high 60’s, and the clouds in the sky were strange. So many different shapes and patterns and heights and depths, they looked false and deliberate and painted onto the sky. I looked to the hills and the high billowing thunderheads made me giddy. We don’t get many thunder storms here, and the prospect always gets me excited, though I rarely hold my breath.
We were awakened around 2:00 am to an electrical storm. And I mean AN ELECTRICAL STORM. I’ve only ever seen lightning like that once in my life and it was on the other side of the states. This was no thunder shower. It made any regular old little lightning strikes and claps of thunder we might get seem akin to someone snapping an old light switch on and off. It was incredible. I stood in the window and watched for a while, then snuggled back in bed, watching the curtains light up like so much daylight. The cat slept in my armpit all night, terrified. The storm lasted for hours, and I fought to stay awake and watch it.
We still had boomers in the morning when I got up for work, sending the cat skittering into the closet then under the blankets on the bed. It most certainly did not feel like June outside, I got out long sleeves and a warm vest and decided on soup for dinner.
Soups in summer are counter-intuitive to me. I’ve always loved the idea of minestrone and corn chowder in the summer, but bleurgh, who wants to eat them? Standing over a steaming pot sounds SO unattractive. Soup is meant to be warming, and when it’s blazing outside that is the very last thing I want. And cold soup? Nope. I just can’t get in to it. Gazpacho, fruit soups, doesn’t matter, I just can’t do it.
I could sneak one in, though, in all of this weird weather. Corn chowder with freshly picked and shucked corn, blistered under the broiler, all creamy and sweet summery goodness. It’s not something I’d normally do on a weeknight, but all told it only took about forty minutes of real hands on work. I multitasked around the kitchen, chopping onions and celery while the corn broiled, sautéing while the corn cooled, and finally having a glass of wine (very important for a weeknight chef) while dinner simmered. All with the balcony door open so I could smell the damp earth outside my door, for what was probably the last time in months.
Grilled Corn & Potato Chowder
4 ears of corn, shucked
3 small red potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into ½” cubes
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about ¾ c.)
1 celery rib, chopped
½ a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 T. butter
1/8 t. smoked paprika
3 C. milk, 2% or whole
1 big thyme sprig
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of bacon, cut into matchsticks and fried until crispy, for serving
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced, for serving
Preheat your grill to medium high heat, and grill the corn on all sides until lightly charred, about 15 minutes total. (Alternatively, do this under the broiler in your oven. Takes the same amount of time. I didn’t want to stand in the rain!). Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, chop the corn off the cobs, discarding the cobs. Take 1 cup of corn and place in a blender with 1/2 c. of milk and puree until smooth.
Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat, and add onion, celery, and bell pepper, sautéing for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the potato cubes and sauté for 10 more minutes. Add the corn, corn puree, milk, smoked paprika, and thyme, stirring to combine and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Serve topped with bacon bits and green onions.