The funny thing about Labor Day and the start of school is that even though it’s the end of summer it’s still summer weather. I remember longing to wear boots and sweaters to school in September and sweltering if I did! My daughter struggled with the same dilemma today.
Here in Oregon, public school starts on the traditional day after Labor Day. I know lots of people start earlier and have already been in school for a couple of weeks. I’m glad that’s not us, but that’s just me. I like tradition.
Of course I have definitely had my moments of wishing for the day when the kids would be off at school so I could attend to my life uninterrupted for a whole 6 hours a day. You know, the dreams are big for all that will get accomplished – tackle new projects for work, clean out closets, complete the half a dozen blog posts that are sitting here in draft mode, train to run a 5K, get back to yoga, organize the office and maybe even proofread emails before I send them!
(Last week I shared a laugh with a friend who also works from home and had three kids around all summer. We decided we should have a disclaimer in the signature of our emails that says “Sent during the summer with house full of kids, please forgive any typos.”)
Last night as I was making dinner and double checking to be sure I had the necessary supplies to pack lunches in the morning, I recalled how every spring we long for a break from the schedule that school and the kid activities impose on our lives (overlaying our own full schedules) and every August we start to say things like “I can’t wait to get back to the routine of school”! Human nature is a peculiar thing, we always want what we don’t have.
I wanted something comforting and warm for dinner, even though it was still 80 degrees outside when I started cooking. The anticipation of the new routine made me long for soup, and what better soup to make with the still plentiful summer bounty than Corn Chowder?
The base of this recipe comes from the first Ina Garten book The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I’ve made it several times verbatim, but this time I embellished with more vegetables and herbs. The resulting soup was the perfect balance of still lively vegetables and that comforting embrace of chowder. The recipe below includes my additions.
Labor Day and Late Summer Corn Chowder
- 4 oz bacon chopped into 1 in pieces
- 2 Tbls olive oil
- 2 large onions chopped
- 2 Tbls butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 Tbl fresh rosemary chopped
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 lb red skinned potatoes scrubbed and diced, not peeled
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 5 cups corn kernels 5 ears
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 lb sharp cheddar cheese grated (plus more for garnish)
- 3-4 Tbls fresh basil torn into pieces (plus more for garnish)
- In a large stock pot on medium-high heat, cool 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 and add the onions and butter to the bacon fat. Cook for 10 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook, stirring a bit, for another 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, turmeric and pimento d'esplette if you are using it, and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock, potatoes, bell pepper and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook, uncovered for 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are tender.
- Add the corn to the soup, then add the half and half, the basil and the cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the reserved bacon, a little more fresh basil and extra cheese if you like.