Tuesday, December 30, 2014

IChewandReview Cooks for You: Ina Garten's Corn Chowder

Ina Garten's Corn Chowder

The Recipe

8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated


In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All Rights Reserved

© 2014 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Cooking for You . . .

Barefoot Kimtessa won't have sore feet...
Every Christmas, I host my inlaws, parents, and sometimes other random people for linner at my house. I don't want to spend all day in the kitchen because that's not what Christmas is about. Besides, who in the hell wants tired feet on a holiday? Maybe the Barefoot Contessa, but not me. Because I'm lazy, it's become a tradition for me to cook up a soup or two and serve them in bread bowls. See what I did there? Bread bowls = less dishes. 

This year was no different. In fact, I was so lazy I only cooked one soup. I was wanting something creamy and a bit cheesy, so I decided on Ina Garten's Corn Chowder. It sounded easy enough. 

A quick tangent...
I imported the recipe into my PlanToEat.com account, so now it is stored for life. And I need to take us on a tangent for a quick sec to tell you I love Plan to Eat! You can import recipes from anywhere on the web, drag and drop meals onto a calendar, and then generate a shopping list. Oh, but it doesn't stop there, folks! When you are ready to cook, you can go into cooking mode where it breaks down the recipe into steps with the ingredients highlighted. This is great for me because I have a really tough time following directions. When it's broken down, it's easier. I just elevated my laptop in case I spilled something (highly likely). Another super feature is you can make notes about the recipe after you've prepared it.

Taking it one step at a time...
I got out (what I thought was) my large pot and preheated it a bit. I threw in the bacon and olive oil, all the why questioning why in the world I was adding oil to bacon. Isn't there enough grease? However, Ina knows best, so I followed her directions. 

I cooked up the bacon until it was nice and crispy and set it aside. Gorgeous, huh?

Into the bacon grease went my diced onion and a half a stick of butter. I know you are totally admiring my knife skills with those perfect little onion pieces. I'll let you think I'm that skilled with a knife. Once again, I was wondering why I was adding butter to olive oil and bacon grease (was this a Paula Deen recipe in disguise??), but being a good little girl, I played along with Ina's little fatty game. 

After the onions became translucent, I added my dry ingredients which I had pre-measured--Yeah, I was that organized--and cooked them for three minutes.

Then in went the chicken stock and the taters. Oh can I say how glad this recipe called for UNPEELED potatoes? Yes! Less labor and mess!

As the taters bathed in the chicken stock and stuff, I couldn't help but notice the thick layer of grease on the soup. At this point, I also realized Ina and I had 2 different definitions of "large." I still had cream, corn, and cheese to add to this concoction, and the liquid wasn't but a couple of inches from the rim of the pot. Fingers crossed it would fit. As the potatoes cooked, I shredded the cheese and measured out my liquid ingredients. Next time, I'll hide the bottle of Two Buck Chuck. I'm embarrassed that I have that crap in my house. I also shucked the corn. Kidding. As I have established, I'm a bit lazy on Christmas, so I used frozen--don't hate.

After the potatoes were done, I dumped in the rest of the ingredients, and dare I say I had about 1/2" to spare in that dang pot. Whew. Minus the layer of fat, I would have had 1" to spare. Ha ha.

So that was pretty much it as far as the actual cooking of the soup. I chopped up some green onion and finely grated the rest of the sharp white cheddar cheese for garnish. Take a peep at the finished product:

Now the moment had arrived to taste my creation. I found it to be completely lacking flavor. It didn't knock my Christmas socks off, and it was very thin. And greasy. If Ina wouldn't walk around barefoot, she would have realized her socks wouldn't be knocked off by this recipe either. However, it wasn't horrible. After I added some ghost pepper salt for some heat and some more cheddar for some bite, it was pretty good. It still lacked depth, though. 

Lessons Learned . . .

To get more depth of flavor, I would suggest one or all of the following:
  • Add a bit of fish sauce for some umami.
  • Make this the day before. It was MUCH better the second day.
  • Omit the olive oil, cook the bacon a little longer, and allow some more fond (is that the right word?) develop in the pot. Those brown bits are yummy.
  • Use a really sharp white cheddar cheese. 
  • Make my own stock.
  • I actually think a little dollop of sour cream would be good in it. I know. Hypocritical since I was griping about all the fat.
Would I make this again? Probably, but it won't be in my regular rotation. Onto the next recipe, folks!

Have you made a good corn chowder before? Share the link in the comments! Have any suggestions about what I could have done differently? Comment! But remember, don't be an ass! :)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

IChewandReview Cooks for You

A Realization
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with cooking. There are some aspects of the process I really enjoy; however, there are days where cooking is an inconvenience and pure drudgery. I came to the realization this Christmas as I was preparing food for company, that I have solely been focusing on the product and not necessarily the process of cooking. I believe this ultimately harms the product.

The Blame Game
I blame all the food contest shows where it’s all rush, rush, rush to get something on the plate. Everything's a race. I think my lifestyle lends itself to that as well. I’m generally tired when I get home, and I don’t like standing in the kitchen cooking after I’ve been working all day. 

Now that I’ve placed appropriate blame, I can move on to rectifying this situation.

The Fix
I really enjoy photographing food, so why not use that as a tool to force me to slow down,  enjoy the process of preparing a recipe, and share my experience with others? Occasionally, I'll post about a recipe in a series entitled, "IChewandReview Cooks for You . . ." Look for my first installment soon!

The Goals
I have a few goals with this series:
  1. To entertain you. This shouldn't be hard because I'm going to screw up a lot, and I have no culinary training. But please, try to laugh with me and not at me. This leads me to my next objective.
  2. To learn from you. I'm all about improvement, so I am happy to receive tips to make me a better cook. Just be gentle and don't be an ass.
  3. To teach you something. I'm a teacher at heart, so my hope is you can learn something from me. No matter where we are on the "foodie" spectrum, I think we can all learn from each other. You'd be surprised what I learned from my second graders!
  4. I want to write more than reviews. Writing reviews gets stale, and I think there's more to food than eating out, and there's certainly more we can talk about. 
  5. To squash the rumor I never cook. Yeah, I'm talking about you, Mr. Nicosia!
The Sappy Thank You
Sometimes I'm really surprised people read my blog. I'm just a normal person who wants to share her experiences with food. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Kimmie Goes Indie!

I've not eaten much Indian cuisine in my lifetime, and I decided it was time to change that, so we ventured down to Houston and visited Kaiser's Himalaya, a Restaurant focusing on Pakistani cuisine. 

I spent some time thinking about my experience yesterday trying to figure out why my thoughts on this cuisine are shallow and completely lacking insight. I've come to the conclusion that because most of the flavors were so new and complex, I simply can't describe them. 

However, everything we ordered would be a great place to start if you are new to this type of Indian food. Be sure to visit on a weekend day or in the evening so you can order from the menu. Lunch selections seem to be predetermined. Happy eating and exploring!

Speaking of exploring, if you head down to that area of Houston, bring cash. Many places take credit cards, but cash is so much easier, and sometimes you can get a cash discount. 

Lamb samosas... These are pretty much a meat pie. We also had veggie samosas which I really liked. 

Naan...Indian bread similar (but not really) to a tortilla. How can anyone not like this? It's bread. Yum. 

Dal (split bean soup). It was very mild and probably the blandest of everything we had. This wasn't a bad thing, just the least complex. 

Achuuri (sp?)... The meat in here is chicken and its marinated in "pickles."

Hara Masala... This was my favorite wet curry. It's chicken in a sightly creamy sauce. 

Goat Biryani... I'd compare this to a stew with rice. 

Basically a mixed grill... The red meat is chicken, and was by far my favorite of the day. I'll order a plate of this next time, and I believe it's called chicken boti. The plate also included steak (Yeah, that's right. BEEF!), a beef sausage, and a lamb sausage. 

Honey balls. These were way too sweet for me and I don't care for fried dough even when saturated in honey and hints of rose. Not my thing. 

Another exploration tip: Some of these places don't sparkle and shine like the chain restaurants up here in The Woods. The appearance of cleanliness is not necessarily a priority, so set your expectations accordingly. 

Himalaya is located at 6652 SW Freeway in Houston (77074). Like many localy owned places, they are closed on Mondays.