For the second week of the Dark Days Winter Eat Local Challenge, I was indeed challenged. The days leading up to Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving, I was really focused on the big meal we ate on the day. With all the leftovers, it was hard to justify going to the store to buy more food just to “eat local.”
We certainly had local items within the T-day meal, including the cranberries in the cranberry sauce; the pumpkins in the pie; the bacon, shallots, celery, butter and hazelnuts in the stuffing (and the bread was local, but probably made from flour from out of state)…but the whole meal wasn’t local. The turkey was a Shelton, from Southern California. I’m not sure why our local fancy grocery and the local meat market both opt for Shelton’s fresh turkeys, but they do. We don’t likely have a big local supplier.
As I was doing what I could with the leftovers, an endeavor that inspired me to transform my turkey breast leftovers via Fuchsia Dunlop’s Sichuan strange-flavored chicken salad, it occured to me that I could make a simple, nourishing, light soup from the corn instead of eating it and pretending it was Chinese.
The corn dish I created this year was based on the proverbial “three sisters,” corn, beans and squash that were so-named because they serve as perfect companion plants in the fields. The corn provides a pole for the beans, and the large leaves of the squash plant shade and protect the roots of the corn and beans until late in the season. Everyone knows the old culinary saw, “if it grows together, it goes together.” Why not use my dried beans, frozen summer corn, and fresh storage squash together?
The Thanksgiving corn side dish featured cream, thyme, roasted squash, and yellow-eye beans sautéed in butter the night before. I had planned to use Anthony Boutard’s tarbais beans (Gaston, Oregon), since they hold up well, but I had just enough yellow-eye beans left (non-local, but I bought them in San Francisco, where they were local) from last season to add a sprinkle of beans to the dish. The local corn itself was not the sweet, locally celebrated Bodacious, but rather a more corn-y, chewier variety that makes for a disappointing ear mid-summer, but a deeper, toastier taste when used frozen in winter recipes. The delicata squash was what it was: fresh, delicious, and easy to roast and cut into small pieces with the skin on for more fiber and pretty stripes.
With leftover buttery, creamy corn already seasoned with thyme and studded with squash and beans, I thought I might capitalize on a good thing and turn a local side dish into a local chowder that was hearty enough for dinner, yet light enough for dinner after Thanksgiving.
I added enough Noris Dairy milk to cover the corn and fill a small pot, then cut up a good knob of local leek and a local red-skinned potato. A quick trip out the garden yielded even more thyme. A healthy grind of black pepper and a good dose of salt finished it off. I simply simmered the soup until the potatoes and leeks were soft. Served with leftover baguette from a local bakery, it was perfect for a postprandial repast.
You could make this chowder with fresh ingredients. Sweet, milky corn freshly shaven off the cob and poached in butter and milk with new potatoes and summer squash would be absolutely divine. But it wasn’t bad for a fall dish, not bad at all!
Bring it on, challengers. Bring. It. On.