14 In Soups

Corn and White Bean Chowder

Corn and White Bean Chowder

I have one recurring nightmare, and it’s this: I’m in some kind of performance, either a dance or piano recital, usually. It’s the night of the performance, and I realize that I don’t know the dance or the musical piece. So I’m on stage, with everyone watching, and I have to make it up as I go along, watching the other dancers for queues, or literally making up the music on the spot. It might not sound like a nightmare to you, but as a classically trained musician and dancer who practiced hours and hours for each performance, it’s truly horrible. The feeling of being unprepared and “faking it” in front of a live audience gives me a pit in my stomach even thinking about it.

In part, this is how I felt in our early days of learning to cook. We really had no idea what we were doing, but we had friends or family over and attempted ambitious meal plans. When they showed up and we were still trying to put everything together and entertain at the same time, I felt a similar feeling: I really had no idea what I was doing, and having an “audience” while I was faking my way through it made it even worse.

Now, years later, I look back and remember that feeling. I realize now I felt so uncomfortable because I had no practice, no experience under my belt. I felt like we were making it up as we went along because we were. But now, after years of failing miserably and learning from those failures and trying new things and understanding how to time recipes so that you’re not still making them an hour after your guests arrive or setting them on fire before you try to serve them (yes, it happened!), we’re finally starting to feel some confidence.

Now, we can do things like make a corn chowder inspired by a $1 bag of end-of-season corn from the farmer’s market. We can look at recipes from around the web and cookbooks, synthesize the various ways to make a chowder, and create a version based on our preferences and what we have on hand. We can whip it up knowing there’s a distinct possibility that it might be a total flop, but know that’s ok. And we can be equally excited when it actually tastes like what we were hoping to do.

In many ways, we’re still making it up as we go along, just like my dream. But we’re finally learning to trust ourselves, take risks, and not fear the outcomes. And now, more often than not, the good surprises are more frequent than the bad.

Corn and White Bean Chowder

Corn and White Bean Chowder
White beans make this a more hearty chowder than most. Adding cornmeal or masa helps to thicken the soup.
Serves: 4
What You Need
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound red skinned potatoes
  • 6 ears corn
  • 15-ounce can white beans
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups milk
  • ¼ cup cornmeal or masa
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
What To Do
  1. Dice the yellow onion and ½ red pepper. Peel and dice 3 carrots. Mince 2 cloves garlic. Dice 1 pound potatoes. Cut corn off of 6 cobs (if possible, use a bundt pan: place the corn cob in the center ring and cut the corn down into the pan). Reserve the cobs. Drain and rinse the white beans; set aside. Remove the leaves of thyme and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Saute the onion and bay leaf 4 minutes, until soft. Add the carrots, red pepper, and garlic, and saute for 4 minutes. Add corn kernels, corn cobs, potatoes, and 6 cups milk. Bring to a boil. Then simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove the corn cobs and bay leaf. In a small bowl, mix cornmeal or masa with ¼ cup water, then add to pot. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt, white beans, and fresh thyme. Heat through for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the soup is thickened a bit (mash down lumps of cornmeal if any occur).


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  • Reply
    September 29, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    What a pretty post. A thoughtful story, gorgeous photos and a delicious recipe!

  • Reply
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious
    September 30, 2013 at 3:11 am

    What a comforting bowl of soup! Love the addition of cornmeal!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    September 30, 2013 at 6:22 am

    I love a good chowder! It’s so perfect for winter, or any cool day, really. Yum!!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ hidden fruits and veggies
    September 30, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I’m a sucker for any kind of soup, especially a hearty chowder! This sounds great.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I am a classical musician and have the same nightmare! This soup looks delicious.

  • Reply
    Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes)
    September 30, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    This looks so gorgeous and so comforting. Perfect dinner as the weather gets cooler.

  • Reply
    Chelsea @ TableForOne
    September 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I love your story. I felt the same way when I first began blogging and cooking for the blog. I still sometimes feel that way, so it is very relatable. Beautiful recipe and perfect for this transition into fall!

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Love the little thyme sprig in the final photo, what a beautiful bowl of soup!

  • Reply
    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com
    September 30, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    SO summery!! Love corn chowders :)

  • Reply
    Tina @ Tina's Chic Corner
    October 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    What an inspiration! I try to be brave to experiment and trust my kitchen instincts but’s not always easy.
    Loving the soup…looks delish. :)

  • Reply
    Katelyn Denning
    October 7, 2013 at 8:56 am

    As corn on the cob becomes harder to find, do you think this soup would be possible with frozen corn? I know we would miss out on the flavor added from having the cobs in the soup as it cooks. What do you think?

    • Reply
      October 7, 2013 at 9:03 am

      Hmm. It might not be quite as flavorful, but I would think it would still work. Probably about 3 cups of corn. Let us know if you try it and how it works out!

    • Reply
      October 9, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      Hi Katelyn! That is a great question. I think that you could make this with frozen corn, but as you expected, I do think you’d miss out on some of the flavor without the cobs. I haven’t tried it that way, but the broth was SO sweet and delicious that I think you’d be missing out a bit. However, I think it would still be tasty! It might need a bit more flavoring to compensate (maybe salt or a bit of spice).

  • Reply
    October 10, 2013 at 10:30 am

    This soup look fantastic, perfect for a cool Fall day.

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