Saturday, September 10, 2011

Non ingredients, the one big ingredient, and Corn Chowder

I'm not sure I'll get to the farmers market in time to buy some corn before it sells out, if not I'll have to make an extra effort to get to a different market tomorrow morning. I have an alternate plan however....if Ican get a box or two of tomatoes then it'll be tomato soup as this weeks "stock up" cooking project.

I spent most every morning this week testing and writing recipes. It's actually been really fun and exciting and I wish I had a reason to do it more often, maybe I will in my future. Anyway, listing the ingredients for a recipe is easy compared to writing the instructions of what to do with them, in other words how to cook! If you are not an experienced cook looking over a list of ingredients can be overwhelming if there are more than just a many is just a few? That's when it occured to me that if I could group ingredients together to make them one standard ingredient, and list them as such, a recipe wouldn't look or seem as complicated or time consuming.

Oil is usually the first ingredient in any cooking recipe. Does oil even need to be listed at all? It should be a non ingredient. At a certain point you should know that you've got to start with a little oil in your pan for a saute. What kind of oil is personal preference unless it drastically alters the taste of a recipe or the perfomance of the cooking (if you need an oil wi
th a high smoke point because of super hot and fast style of cooking would be an example) It should only be "not listed", in other words, if for some crazy reason you don't need it, then the recipe should say so!

Salt...and pepper. Really? Seasoning your food as you go along should be a should be a habit. Food needs seasoning (salt). If you watch any cooking show you will see the Chefs seasoning at each step, after the addition of each ingredient. Especially at the very end, the last thing you do is.....taste, and adjust the seasoning. Salt and pepper? Non ingredients.

Garlic. You either like garlic or you don't....and who doesn't? I can see not liking raw garlic, or too much gar
lic but in savory dishes if you like it then use it. Garlic should be a non ingredient.

Red pepper flakes. If you like a little heat, like we do, then a pinch of red pepper flakes is conducive to all kinds of flavor profiles from Mexican to Asian, Italian and maybe even Hungarian!

Now for the one big ingredient....onion, celery, carrot. The French call it a mirepoix (meer-pwah). Most every savory dish starts with mirepoix, at least my recipes do! It's common in about every style of cooking in many countries. In creole cooking it's know as "Holy trinity", "refogado" in Portuguese cooking, "soffritto" in Italian, "sofrito" in Spanish and "suppengrun" in German.
This combination of vegetables are known as aromatics and if you don't think they make a difference try making a soup, stew, sauce or stock without them! Oh I'm sure that many types of regional cooking has their own non ingredients, what is an ingredient that you always use? An ingredient that is within arms reach of your stove?

Corn Chowder

chard stems
yellow bell pepper
jalapeno (fresh)
yellow summer squash
stock (or water)

Corn chowder is basically a vegetable stew whose main ingredient is corn. No other vegetable should overpower the corn flavor so I made my own corn stock to bump up the corn flavor even more since I use a ton of other ve

All veggies are cut into a small dice, added to the pot in the order I listed, and seasoned with a pinch of salt before the next ingredient is added. First saute the onion, celery, chard stems (totally optional), and peppers for 5-8 minutes, add carrot, summer squash and corn. Barely cover with stock (or water).

If you are using garlic or red pepper flakes, or both they should be added after the first veg saute and before the last veg addition of carrot, squash and corn.

Although I used my pressuer cooker you can simply bring the chowder to boiling in a big soup pot (with the lid on), turn the heat down, slighty uncover and cook until all the veggies are soft.

When done cooking use and immersion blender to make the chowder smooth and creamy leaving it as "chunky" as you want to your own personal taste. Season with salt and pepper.

I could give you exact measurement of each veg, I could give you exact measurement of stock, I could give you exact cooking time, but it all of the comes with experience so try it on your own! You don't have to use chard stems, summer squash or peppers, the important veggies are the mirepoix and the corn. Let me know how it goes....or share one of your favorite veg chowder ideas...."ideas" not recipe!


Maribel said...

You'd be surprised at how much direction an inexperienced cook needs. Yes, even how to add S&P.

I know a woman who grew up eating out every single day and almost every single meal. I'm not kidding when I tell you she didn't know how to scramble an egg at 24.

If you ever right a cook book, this post is part of a good intro to cooking. I think cookbooks are great, but they list the ingredients and step by step...they lack this general instruction for the reader to gain knowledge.

Tracy Reifkind said...


I wouldn't be surprised, I already know that most people need exact instruction, sometimes even measuring out 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt! It's only fear of failure and I understand that.

I'm convinced there is better ways of teaching the skills of cooking methods and not just recipes.

The insight I have is from being a non cook until I was 32...and 32 is when I started to learn, I wasn't comfortable or trusting of my cooking until I started my diet and HAD to be because I took responsibilty of feeding myself 100%....and I was 41 at that point!

I'm planning on some sort of book that involves cooking or if I have to I'll just continue to blog about it.

JenG said...

What again do you have for an immersion blender? I am going to buy one, it's soup season again!!

Tracy Reifkind said...


VIKING! It's awesome, and awesome looking!

JenG said...

I knew you had a nice one. I was looking at the professional Waring immersion, which looks much like the Viking but it's a third of the cost. I wonder how they compare. I like how the viking comes with a whip, though. The Waring doesn't come with any attachments.
Anyway....THANKS! :)