When it’s vacation time or if visiting an unfamiliar area, I’m hoping you go all Dora (or, Dick)-the-Explorer. Whether it’s eating, drinking, sightseeing or finding lodging to fit the coins in your pocket, there’s expectation in getting it right. In fact quite often a trip is as successful as the research and planning that go into it.
Since the time I’ve had memories, I’ve been a planner, organizer, list maker, researcher, scheduler, investigator and obnoxiously curious. Which translates into my being a Tourist Extraordinaire. Drop me off anywhere. I will be able to amuse myself. There’s a downside to that, of course, the inability to chill, settle back or hang loose.
During Colorado’s winter months I cede my condo to skiers, escaping to parts unknown. You Readers already know I spend several of those weeks in Paris where, admittedly, I am a woman possessed. For any sane person, tasting, seeing and doing it all in Paris is simply not possible. I’ll just leave it there.
The other eight months I’m in Aspen where we moved in 1988. You want truth? There is so much about my hometown of 31-years I don’t know. This summer I resolved to become a Tourist Extraordinaire here. Although when I visit major international cities I always search out Walking Tours, I’d never joined one of the many offered in Aspen. This summer I’m knocking many of them off.
I walk by our fire station daily, rely on them to keep me safe, but have never popped into the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department Museum which opened in November 2017. The potato chips at the Music Tent’s food stand which are legend? Nope, not even one. Nor, shame on me, have I ever attended a summer opera. Got a ticket for Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro next week. And, on and on.
Now I’m no slacker. I’ve packed my days full over the years with all the many Aspen and High Country opportunities. My point is that everyplace and anyplace, especially your hometown, have more to offer if you look. Again, I’ll just leave it there.
COOK-THE-BOOK-FRIDAYS WITH DORIE
This week our recipe choice from Everyday Dorie, The Way I Cook is a savory Fresh-Off-the-Cob Chowder. Being Iowa born-and-bred and considering myself an authority on corn, I will admit to being curious about Dorie’s chowder. It’s delicious. (Note to Self: Never be a Dorie-skeptic.)
A chowder is a type of soup that most often has a creamy base and is chunky in texture. Although this chowder makes the most of fresh corn including the cobs, our season is short. Your taste for this chowder will not be short-lived but you can substitute frozen corn. Vegetarian? This chowder can work for you. Best of all, you can do the work-intensive part of the recipe the day before.
Cornbread is perfect with this chowder. Adding 2 peaches and 1/3-1/2 cup chopped jalapeños makes it even more perfect. When fresh peaches are gone, use canned, drained of syrup. If you’re like me, you’ll all about simple. I’m doing simple by using two 8.5 oz. boxed mixes. I prefer Original Jiffy Cornbread mix. Make the mix according to package instructions. Carefully stir in the peeled, sliced peaches and chopped jalapeños. Pour into a buttered 8-cup pan (I used a springform pan). Cook for 45-50 minutes at 400 degrees. Check for doneness and cook longer, if necessary. Cool.
FRESH OFF-THE-COBB CORN CHOWDER by Dorie Greenspan, Everyday Dorie, The Way I Cook
Makes about 4 servings
4 large ears corn, husked
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, finely chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, germ removed, and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
5 cups water AND 1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable bouillon base, or 1 bouillon cube
3⁄4 pound potatoes, peeled, quartered if large, halved if smaller
4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons white wine
1⁄2 cup half-and-half (optional to pour on top when serving soup)
Sprinkle minced fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley and/or basil over soup
- Set two large bowls on the counter. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and put half of the corn in each bowl; reserve the cobs. Divide the celery, onion and garlic between the bowls; cover the second bowl and set aside. (By separating the vegetables and later dividing the potatoes, you’ll get a soup with great textures.)
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat.
- When it’s warm, add the vegetables from the first bowl, season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and cook, stirring, just until they soften, about 10 minutes. Toss in the herbs and the reserved cobs. Pour in the water and add the bouillon base or cube. Drop in the
- Turn the heat up, bring the liquid to a boil and season with more salt and pepper. Lower the heat, partially cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes until the potato is . Test the potato pierced easily with the tip of knife.
5.Remove from the heat.Using a slotted spoon, scoop half of the potatoes out of the soup and onto a cutting board, and cut them into small cubes. Set them aside for now. Remove and discard the corn cobs, the bay leaf and any stringy or woody herbs you can see.
(YOU CAN MAKE THE SOUP UP TO THIS POINT A DAY AHEAD AND REFRIGERATE IT. )
- Working in batches if necessary, puree the soup in a blender, food processor, or handheld immersion blender. Whatever you use, try to get the soup as smooth as possible.
- Rinse out the pot if there’s anything stuck to the bottom, then pour in the puree, cover and bring to a simmer over low heat; keep at a gentle simmer while you cook the bacon and the remaining vegetables.
- Place the bacon strips in a heavy skillet and cook slowly until crisp, turning as needed. Transfer the bacon to a double thickness of paper towels and cover with more paper towels to remove excess fat (leave the fat in the skillet). Cut the bacon into 1⁄2-inch pieces.
- Put the skillet over medium heat and, when the fat is warm, add the vegetables from the second bowl (not the cubed potatoes). Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for about 6 minutes, until barely tender. Pour in the wine, raise the heat and cook until it almost evaporates.
- Add the skillet vegetables, bacon and potato cubes to the soup and cook at a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until everything is piping hot. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Ladle the chowder into bowls and, if you’d like, drizzle with half-and-half and scatter fresh herbs.
Leftover soup can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for about 10 minutes before serving. Because of the potatoes, the soup will thicken when chilled. If you’d like it thinner after reheating, add water or broth.
The soup lends itself to lots of add-ins and swaps. If you don’t want bacon, sauté the reserved vegetables in a tablespoon of olive oil. If you opt out of the half-and-half but still want something extra, try a drizzle of chive or even chili oil, a little pesto or some grated Parmesan. You can sub small cubes of ham for the bacon or add chunks of cooked shrimp, lobster or thinly sliced raw scallops. The heat of the soup will cook them perfectly.