Virginia Willis Blog

More Pork Chop Theory: Nathalie Dupree’s Shrimp & Grits

My first job cooking was on a TV cooking show hosted by Nathalie Dupree. I started with her as a scared, untrained, but hardworking, novice hungry for knowledge. She took me by the hand and showed how to cook. Nathalie took me out of my mother’s kitchen and showed me a world I did not know existed. I felt like I was tasting for the first time.

Without her I would have never found my way to this path, much less on it.

She has been my friend and guide all along the way. She’s a very complicated woman. All at once she is passionate yet carefree, strong yet vulnerable, and selfish yet giving. While apprenticing in her home, she used to drive me absolutely positively crazy, leaving her peanut butter covered knife on the counter after making a sandwich, or mixing her ladies garments into the laundry with my kitchen towels.

Several months after I left her apprenticeship she called me in DC to ask about how to work her microwave. (She’s going to call me vicious for telling you that.)

We have gone round and round, experienced the range of emotions from absolute joy, as it was dining together in France at the famed 3-star L’Esperance in Burgundy, to pure pain, each of us crying over hurtful words. When I am nice and she is being nice, she calls me her “little chicken.” When I tease her mercilessly, as now I am more apt to do, about her quirks and eccentricities I am deemed a “vicious woman.”

It is somehow wonderfully poetic she now lives on Queen Street in a historic home in Charleston, SC. She has a battalion of tea cups and a freezer in the guest bathroom. Her universe seems like utter chaos, but there she is at the center, calm as the eye in the storm. She is prone to working at her laptop in a wing-back chair, surrounded by towering mountains of books and magazines, ensconced in her own petite fortress.

Pat Conroy once wrote she was “more like a fictional character than a flesh and blood person.” That still makes me howl with laughter. But, it’s not because she putters about in myopic Mr. McGoo fashion, uttering epithets like “if I were the woman I wish I was” or when dropping a bowl/chicken/apple/you name it, on the floor, “Oops, I dropped my diamond.” It’s not because while taping one of her hundreds of TV shows the this or that wouldn’t go right and she’d say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”(See some of her clips on the Charleston Post & Courier.)

It’s because it’s impossible to imagine that anyone could actually, truly be that tender, generous, and loving and be a real live person.

She’s the originator of The Pork Chop Theory. Her flock includes Rebecca Lang, Shirley Corriher, and many many more.

I should write much, much more and one day I will. But for now, I felt compelled to share with you this week this recipe from her Shrimp and Grits Cookbook.

She’s one of my dearest friends ever, and I love her.

Thank you, sweet Nathalie.
I love you.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Serves 8

A soufflé is just a thick sauce to which egg yolks and beaten egg whites are added. Cheese grits make a sturdy base for the eggs, enabling the soufflé to be assembled in advance and cooked just before serving, or cooked and frozen. Top the servings with the Shrimp Sauce. This is an extraordinarily popular dish for a buffet.
The soufflé:
1 cup uncooked grits, quick or stone ground
4-5 cups milk
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 large eggs, separated
The shrimp sauce:
1 cup (1 stick) butter
1 ½ pounds small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley and basil, mixed

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8½ x 13-inch ovenproof serving dish. To make the soufflé: Cook the grits in 4 cups of the milk according to the package directions, stirring. The grits should have the consistency of a sauce. If they are very thick, add all or a portion of the fifth cup of milk and heat until absorbed. Stir in the cheese, butter, mustard, mace, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cool slightly. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a small bowl. Stir a little of the grits into the yolks to heat them slightly, then add the yolks to the grits mixture and combine thoroughly. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into the grits. Pour into the prepared pan. (The soufflé may be made several hours ahead to this point, covered and set aside or refrigerated. ) When ready to eat, return to room temperature. Bake the soufflé for 40 to 45 minutes, or until it is puffed and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and spoon onto plates. Ladle the shrimp and their sauce over each serving.

To make the shrimp sauce: Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the shrimp and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they start to turn pink. Add the chopped herbs and spoon over soufflé.

Copyright © Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, LLC 2010

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My Day in NYC on 9/11

This picture of my sister was taken a in August, just a few weeks before the tragedy. I’ve never written a word about 9-11, a single word.

So I did.

Virginia Willis

I remember that morning very plainly, that crisp, clear September morning. I was living in Jersey City and would take the PATH train into the city for work. Our street was clean and tidy, but the walk along the main street was cluttered and trashy. We didn’t live in a bad neighborhood; it was simply urban living. Sadly, somehow I have always constantly, somewhat obsessively wondered about the socio-economics of garbage. It used to drive me absolute mad, how much sheer waste people used to carelessly throw on the ground.

So, I walked that morning, not looking at the cotton-white clouds strewn across the brilliant blue sky, but at the litter on the sidewalk, the empty cans and bottles, the plastic bags whirling in the wind across the cement, the crumpled, greasy sacks of fast food, and the oily, iridescent psychedelic rainbows in the jagged potholes at every corner and crosswalk.

I remember walking mad.

Can you imagine? Walking mad? Letting filth, garbage, other peoples refuse distress me so? Why do I remember this?

It turns out that my irritation saved me from watching the first plane hit the first tower. I know this. I walked this walk every day most often looking skyward at those twin towers across the river directly in my sight. The papers, the news, the sources on the internet proclaimed the timing second by second, minute by minute in the days and weeks to come.

I didn’t see one of the most horrific things in history because I was looking down at garbage.

Often I would take the PATH to the WTC and then change twice to go uptown, but even though I was running late, I waited for the train to take me to 33rd street so I’d only have to make one change.

I’ve thought about that more than once in these past years, not taking the train to the WTC.

By the time I changed to the subway and exited the station the streets were buzzing with rumors, that a plane had hit the tower. I assumed it was a small plane, maybe a private jet. Once in the office it was clear something else was going on. Cell phones weren’t working and internet access was spotty. Someone said the mall was under attack in DC, then it was declared the pentagon was hit, the White House. I was the producer for Epicurious on the Discovery Channel hosted my chef Michael Lomonaco. We didn’t know where he was. I called my now-frantic family to let them know I was okay.

But, I was in Times Square and which didn’t feel very okay at all. If the US was under attack, Time Square could be next. We walked down the winding darkened stairwell, it wasn’t far and it wasn’t because we were in imminent danger. It somehow seemed like the sensible thing to do. I had no desire to be caught in an elevator.

The bridges and tunnels were closed. The subway wasn’t running. I had called a friend and she said to meet her at her apartment on the Lower East Side. Manhattan was under lock-down.

I knew I couldn’t get home.

So, I started walking southeast. People were huddled at cars with doors and windows open at street corners listening to the radio. The sound of sirens and the gnawing pull of fear were omnipresent. I saw only one act of vandalism, someone breaking into a pay phone. The concept of being in a lawless New York City was terrifying in and of itself.

At one point I could see the towers smoldering and smoking against the cerulean blue sky, and then at the next corner, when they would have been in sight again, they were gone. Just gone.

Soon I saw people walking covered in grey dust and soot. I kept walking south, then east. I finally arrived at Claire’s apartment on the Lower East Side. She wasn’t home, yet, so I waited. My cell couldn’t call out, but somehow my friend Faye was able to call me. She was my mouthpiece. She called my Mama to tell her I was okay.

Claire arrived. We watched the news all day, weeping, trying to keep the children occupied in the other room. We were in shock and disbelief.

Finally, at the end of the very long day, the news reported the PATH was reopened at 14th. I wanted to go home, I wanted to feel safe. Claire didn’t want me to leave.

I wanted to go home.

I started walking. I walked alone. The lack of sound was astonishing. It was like a movie set. New York City, but without the people.

No more sirens. No more noise. No one driving. No one honking. No one on the streets. The avenues were empty and desolate. The occasional car would pass armed with a bullhorn encouraging people to go give blood.

I walked North through Union Square where 2 candles already flickered, the beginning of the massive combination of shrine and wall of missing person posters that eventually established itself on that spot.

14th was closed, so I walked further to 23rd, also closed, so onward to 33rd.

Finally, success.

The cavernous station was packed. People were elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder, but you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was muted in fear. We crossed under the river to Hoboken because my regular station was destroyed and closed. Standing on the platform as we pulled into the station, I saw evacuees from lower Manhattan, covered in soot and ash, now clothed in garbage bags.

Garbage bags.

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EZ Does It: Slow Cooker Vegetarian

Fall is just around the corner. This morning in Atlanta the low was 64 degrees – yes, it still got up in the 90s, but the morning was cool.

I love, love, love mornings like today. I slowly opened my eyes, took in my surroundings, and smiled.

I have a lot of reasons to smile and be thankful.

Lot’s happening lately – we shot a TV pilot on harvesting shrimp for What it Takes, a show about what it takes to get the food on your plate.

Saveur Magazine decided I was one of the sites they love! Yippeee!! They featured my Grilled Chicken with Mama’s BBQ Sauce recipe for Labor Day.

Food News Journal decided my friend and colleague Rebecca Lang were both worthy of their “Best of the Blogs” on the same day!

And, yes, I am still on deadline for my next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Recipes and Recollections from a Southern Culinary Journey. It’s filled with simple, doable basic recipes much like in Bon Appétit, Y’all. In addition, each recipe has a paragraph with a short recipe, presentation tip, or technique on how to transform the Basic recipe into something Brilliant and more chef-inspired.

So, yes, a lot going on…..

Given my schedule, something EZ would be really nice. Put it on and forget about it. That’s where my friend and colleague, Judith Finlayson and her book, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker come in.

In the continued spirit of The Pork Chop Theory, I want to share with you a few of Judith’s recipes. With over 200 delicious she demonstrates that by using a slow cooker, even the most time-pressed person can arrive home to a ready-to-eat and delicious home-cooked meal. She’s got updated recipes for standard and traditional vegetarian dishes. Additionally, classic meat dishes have been recreated in vegetarian versions, with vegan-friendly recipes clearly identified. It’s a must have cookbook, appealing to a wide range of tastes including the flexitarian, aka “the sometime vegetarian” and people who like just like good food, meatless or not, like myself.

Thanks so much, Judith even though there’s not a pork chop in site, your generosity and sharing fits the bill.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Beet Soup with Lemongrass and Lime
Serves 6

This Thai-inspired soup, which is served cold, is elegant and refreshing. Its jewel-like appearance and intriguing flavors make it a perfect prelude to any meal. I especially like to serve it at summer dinners in the garden.

• Medium to large (31⁄2 to 5 quart) slow cooker

1 tbsp olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, smashed and
cut in half crosswise
2 tbsp minced gingerroot
2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
6 cups vegetable broth, divided
6 beets (about 21⁄2 lbs/1.25 kg), peeled
and chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 long red chile pepper, seeded and diced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Salt, optional
Coconut cream, optional
Finely chopped fresh cilantro

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, lemongrass, ginger and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 2 cups (500 mL) of the vegetable broth and stir well. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

Add remaining 4 cups (1 L) of vegetable broth and beets. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until beets are tender. Add red pepper, and chile pepper, if using. Cover and cook on High for 30 minutes, until peppers are tender. Discard lemongrass.

Purée using an immersion blender. (You can also do this in batches in a food processor or stand blender.) Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in lime zest and juice. Season to taste with salt, if using. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

Ladle into bowls, drizzle with coconut cream, if using, and garnish with cilantro.

Arugula-Laced Caramelized Onion Sauce
Serves 4

I love the bittersweet flavor of caramelized onions but on the stovetop caramelizing onions is a laborious process of slow, constant stirring. Made in the slow cooker, caramelized onions require almost no attention. In this recipe, I have added sugar to the onions to ensure deeper flavor. Serve this luscious sauce over whole wheat pasta, polenta, or grits. Complete the meal with a tossed green salad topped with shredded carrots for a splash of healthy color.

• Medium to large (31⁄2 to 5 quart) slow cooker

2 tbsp olive oil
6 onions, thinly sliced on the vertical
(about 3 lbs/1.5 kg)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 tbsp white or red miso
3 cups tomato sauce
2 bunches arugula, stems removed and
Cooked pasta, preferably whole-grain, polenta or grits

In slow cooker stoneware, combine olive oil and onions. Stir well to coat onions thoroughly. Cover and cook on High for 1 hour, until onions are softened.

Add sugar and peppercorns and stir well. Place a clean tea towel, folded in half (so you will have two layers), over top of stoneware to absorb moisture. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours, stirring two or three times to ensure that the onions are browning evenly and replacing towel each time.

Remove towels, add miso and stir well to ensure it is well integrated into the onions. Add tomato sauce and arugula and stir well to blend. Cover and cook on High for 30 minutes, until mixture is hot and flavors have blended. Serve over hot whole-grain pasta, polenta or grits.

Coconut-Laced Black Sticky Rice Pudding
Serves 8

Rice pudding is a dessert I love and this is one of my favorite versions. It’s exotic and delicious. You can serve it if you’re looking for a Wow! factor but it’s so easy to make you can also prepare it for a personal treat.

• Small (2 to 31⁄2 quart) slow cooker
• Lightly greased slow cooker stoneware

4 cups water
11⁄2 cups Thai black sticky rice
1⁄2 cup raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or
other evaporated cane juice sugar
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 can (14 oz/400 mL) coconut milk
Chopped mangos, peaches or bananas,
Chopped toasted almonds or toasted
shredded coconut, optional

In a small saucepan, bring water and black sticky rice to a vigorous boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Stir in sugar, vanilla and salt, then transfer to prepared slow cooker stoneware.

Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or overnight or on High for 4 hours. Stir well, then stir in coconut milk. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with chopped fruit and/or toasted almonds, if using.

Excerpted from The Vegetarian Slow Cooker © 2010 Judith Finlayson.
Text, cover and photographs © 2010 Robert Rose Inc.Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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What it Takes: Labor Day & Poached Georgia Shrimp

Talk about fresh shrimp? I helped haul in the net that held that catch.

It was messy, dirty, smelly hard work. Talk about labor? We’d left the dock at 4:00 am.

But, check out my grin.

As a chef and a cook I have a natural curiosity about where my food comes from, its origin. I want to know who made it, who grew it, who harvested it.

I love knowing the source for many reasons. First and foremost is the taste and wholesomeness of the food.

Many years ago I once stood on top of a hillside in Chablis, France looking at the vineyards. There was a map so that the visitor could see the areas designated for Grand Cru, Premier Cru, etc.

Cru is a French wine term which means “growth place”. The terms Grand Cru and Premier Cru are translated into English as Grand Growth and First Growth. The vineyards designated Grand Cru are on the sunniest part of the slope are have the best conditions for growth.

I had the proverbial lightbulb moment regarding wine. The best grapes grow in the best environment.

Guess what? Same for a tomato or an ear of corn, or a chicken or a cow. Or a shrimp.

The best comes from the best environment.

In this day and age, many people are removed from where their food comes from. There’s a reason that blueberry tastes so good. It was grown in the best environment, harvested at the best time, and transported under the best conditions.

We could talk food politics, factory farming, and food safety well past dinnertime. Even if you aren’t remotely interested, there is the simple fact of appreciating the number of people who are involved and their labor to keep you and yours fed.

I want to support people who labor to do good work. I want to support the stores that buy from the people who do good work.

Last weekend I spent the weekend doing just that, learning what it takes to get shrimp to our plates. We were on the Georgia coast shooting the pilot for “What it Takes”, a 13-part series all about what it takes to get the food on your plate. There’s lots and lots more to come, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, so “stay tuned” (sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Best place for that right now is by following this blog or friending me on Facebook.

Still on deadline, I am taking a brief detour from my promotion of The Pork Chop Theory to share with you some happy snaps from last weekend and recipe for Poached Georgia Shrimp for you to enjoy this upcoming weekend.

I want to share my sincere and heartfelt thanks to these folks for their hard labor: Gena Berry, Taylor and Camille Adams, Mama Laura Berry, Melanie McCraney, Mike Thomas and Olivia Sellers, and Carlin Breinig.

I feel very much loved and I am very, very thankful.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Here I am with Brande Bennett, 4th generation shrimper from Brunswick. The Georgia coastline is part of the largest saltwater marsh in the world. Men and women have made their lives for centuries fishing and harvesting from the low country estuaries, sounds, and sea.

It took me an hour to fill one of these baskets, in the meanwhile Brande and her dad, Captain Johnny had filled two a piece.

Captain Johnny about to “surf the boards”, heavy doors that keep the nets submerged.

Getting ready to get busy.

The end result!

Poached Georgia Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

The shrimp can be prepared completely ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. The most important part is bathing them in the lemon mixture while they are still warm. Simply bring the shrimp to room temperature before serving. It’s high shrimp season, so enjoy these as a little nibble while the burgers or steaks are grilling.

Jumbo, large, and medium are all arbitrary designations for shrimp. Chefs buy shrimp according to an industry designation—the count per pound. For example, a count of 41/50 means that there are between 41 and 50 shrimp per pound, while U12 indicates that there are “under 12” shrimp per pound. In general, large shrimp are 21/25 count, extra-large are 16/20 count, and jumbo shrimp are 11/15 count.

12 cups water
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 lemon, halved
1/2 onion, preferably Vidalia, peeled
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 tablespoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
11/2 pounds unshelled large shrimp (21/25 count)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick, for accompaniment

To poach the shrimp, in a large pot, combine the water, carrot, celery, lemon, onion, bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes to make a flavorful court-bouillon. Return the heat to high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Add the shrimp and boil until the shells are pink and the meat is white, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overcook.

Drain the shrimp in a colander. As soon as the shrimp are just cool enough to touch, peel and devein them.

To dress the shrimp, while they are still warm, place them in a large bowl with the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Marinate the shrimp at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before serving. Add the chopped parsley and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve the shrimp on baguette slices, drizzled with some of the juices.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website,

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Edible Communities & Corn: Taking Care of Mama

Funny how things work out in life.

For those not aware I am in on deadline for my next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Recipes and Recollections of a Southern Culinary Journey. I am in the final stretch so I am enlisting the assistance of friends and sharing recipes from books and people that I think do good work.

Sometimes we get a little hung up on competition. I’m all about doing one’s best and healthy contest, but there’s a lot to be said for sharing. They are helping me; I’m helping them. Not to overdo the idioms, but think “a rising tide floats all boats.”

However, since I am from the South, we’ve got to involve pork, not boats. It’s called The Pork Chop Theory and I learned it from my friend and mentor Nathalie Dupree. It’s a very sharing and feminine approach to life and work.

This week, I asked Tracy Ryder, co-founder of Edibles Communities with Carole Topalian, if she would share some recipes for corn.

I’ve had some great corn all summer – Georgia , Florida, Maine, and Massachusetts. My grandfather always preferred to plant his corn patch in the fruitful black soil at the river’s edge. He taught me that when corn is ripe and ready to be picked, the silk at the top of the ear should be dark brown, almost black. It is not unusual to see people peeling back the husks in search of ears with perfect rows of kernels. Just take a peek to make sure the ear is full and free of worms, but keep the husk on to keep the corn moist and sweet.

Lately, I’ve been consumed with corn, dried corn that is. Grinding grits, when to grind, where to grind, how much to grind. The top photo and the photo just below is of my heirloom granite ground grits for My Southern Pantry. (Much more on that later, but if you want to stay posted, please follow that story on the MSP Facebook Page.)

I have a dual sided Zuni Corn Maiden created from turquoise that I wear on my “life necklace”. My life necklace is sort of like a charm bracelet, but not exactly. It is a select group of items either lovingly given to or purchased by me when something was happening that I wanted documented.

Something to have close to me to touch when I want a “physical” memory.

Corn Maidens reflect the agricultural and ritual importance of corn to native Hopi and Zuni culture. Corn Maidens are emblematic of this respect for corn as a sustainer of life and spirituality. It’s a very female oriented aspect of the culture. Corn, essentially represents the Mother.

And, you know, it’s all about taking care of Mama.

The dual sides of the Corn Maiden represent the younger and the older woman. On the younger side the Corn Maiden is shown with her cob full of corn. Mature Corn Maidens are depicted without corn kernels — but their robes are much richer.

The coincidence of the corn is that I had purchased my Corn Maiden while in Santa Fe with Edibles Communities.

My Corn Maiden was meant to document an amazing, rich, and fulfilling experience.

Being in Santa Fe was truthful, challenging, and stimulating. Seeing new things, tasting new flavors, feeling new emotions, thinking about things in a way I had never before was immensely rewarding.

Edible Communuties is a national network of award-winning regional magazines that is dedicated to transform the way consumers shop for, cook, eat and relate to local food. It’s the world’s largest publisher of information on local foods with the specific flavor of each community.

There are currently 62 magazines that celebrate the abundance of foods season by season through documenting local and authentic food traditions. These magazines connect the people in the food community with stories of real people making real food, a truthful source of local food information for consumers.

It’s an amazing group of talented dedicated people making really good magazines.

Through its printed publications, websites, and events, Edible Communities strive to connect consumers with local growers, retailers, chefs, and food artisans, enabling those relationships to grow and thrive in a mutually beneficial, healthful and economically viable way. Think of it as a sound business model built on taking care of Mother Earth.

Given my experience in Santa Fe, they had me at hello, but it gets better.

They now have a cookbook.

In the continued exercise of spreading the love and the tenets of The Pork Chop Theory, with a nod to Mama Earth and the Corn Maiden, I am sharing some recipes from my friends and colleagues.

Their beautiful cookbook Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods is a collection of essays and recipes from the individual EC magazines on local food heroes and traditions incorporating the very best regional foods from every area of the United States, as well as British Columbia and Ontario.

This week, we celebrate corn.

Many, many thanks to Tracy and Carole.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!


Much lighter than hush puppies, these corn pancakes are perfectly seasoned and bring out the sweetness of corn kernels freshly cut from their cobs. You might want to consider doubling the recipe; these fritters disappear very quickly!

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 3 ears of corn)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions or scallions
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. In a large bowl, stir together the corn, flour, egg yolks, onions, salt, paprika, pepper and cayenne. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into the corn mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the remaining egg whites into the corn mixture in three additions.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter has melted. Carefully drop some of the corn mixture by tablespoons in to the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook each fritter until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn each fritter over and brown the other side, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the fritters to a platter lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt, if desired. Repeat until all of the corn mixture has been used. Serve hot with some broiled tomatoes, a salsa made with chopped avocado, mango, lime and cilantro, and sour cream, if desired.

It is not surprising that sweet corn frequently appears on Vermont menus during the few weeks it’s in season. This luscious corn chowder uses the whole vegetable – cob and all – to create a dish that is satisfying and distinctive. If you choose to preserve some of the summer bounty for use throughout the year, frozen kernels (and cobs) work very well in this recipe.

Makes 8 servings

Corn broth (optional):
4 ears of sweet corn
8 cups water

4 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice, optional, or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped celery root or celery
5 medium potatoes, chopped
4 cups corn broth, chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

1. Make the corn broth, if using (you can use chicken broth or vegetable broth instead): Stand an ear of corn up against a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, and running the blade downwards between the corn kernels and the corn cob, cut the corn kernels from the cob, rotating the cob until all kernels have been removed. Transfer the corn kernels to a medium bowl. Repeat with the remaining 3 ears of corn; set the corn kernels aside for making the chowder.

2. In a medium pot, add 8 cups of water and the cobs of corn from which the corn has been removed. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer until the water has become rich and golden, about 90 minutes. Strain the corn broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Discard the solids.

3. Make the chowder: In a large pot over medium heat, add the bacon (if using). Cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. If not using the bacon, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.

4. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in the carrot and celery root and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the potatoes, corn broth, water, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved corn kernels, bring the chowder back up to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender or a potato masher, lightly break up some of the potatoes and corn in the chowder. Do not over-process, or you will lose the rustic texture of the chowder. Stir in the cream and the reserved bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

2.To thicken the soup, immerse a stick blender into the pot and pulse quickly 5 or 6 times (or use a potato masher) to quickly break up some of the potatoes and corn. Do not over-process, or you will lose the rustic texture of the soup.

Stir in the cream and reserved bacon. Adjust the seasonings; you may need to add more salt to balance the sweetness of the corn broth and bring out the full flavor of this soup.

NOTE: A corn chowder soup base adds great flavor to this soup and is a wonderful bonus when freezing kernels cut off the cob. Simmer the cobs in water to cover for 2 hours, until the water has turned into a rich corn broth. Cool the broth and store in freezer containers.

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