corn chowder for idiots, but it's good!

Aren’t you getting tired of soup posts? I am.

You see, today is the first day of the rest of my life (can you guess which decade I was born in?) Yesterday I clicked “Send” to transmit to the publisher the last few files that comprise the manuscript for my Canning and Preserving book, a manuscript that was due over a week ago. As you might guess, I’ve been a bit stressed. Much has fallen to the wayside over the past few months: this blog, the garden, my life.

So you can imagine my glee once I clicked “Send.” I could return to a bit of normalcy and attend to some long-overdue projects, such as planting my asparagus. Those roots have sat in the basement for nearly a month, patiently thumbing their tendrils on the table wondering when I would pay attention to them. I pledged to them that once the ms was on its way, they would be sent to their subterranean nirvana. That was the plan for today until I wimped out because of near freezing temperatures and wind gusts that would chill you to the bone.

plan b and the metaphor

That’s when Plan B began to form. It’s not really planting weather; it’s really soup weather. But I don’t really have any soup ingredients, unless you consider some left-over mashed potatoes. Reread the previous paragraphs and you’ll understand that I’ve not been to the grocery in a while. Plus, I was hopeful that the sun would come out and coax me outside, so I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen. Such are the conditions for birthing new recipes, a corollary to the “necessity and invention” thing.

I knew that I had plenty of frozen corn from last summer in the freezer. However, other than the corn, a little kale, a few strawberries, and other miscellaneous delights from last summer, it’s getting pretty grim in there — “there” being the freezer and the canning shelves.  I mentioned this to son Brendan the other day, telling him how the stockpiles in the basement freezer were so low that we turned it off and consolidated in our side-by-side in the kitchen. “The blubber is getting thin,” I said as the metaphor popped into my head. He looked quizzically at me. I waited. Still no recognition of my brilliant metaphor, so I explained. When you stock up in the fall, it’s like a whale fattening up. You surround yourself with a layer of blubber to get you through the winter. The blubber can be in the freezer, the canning shelves, the root cellar, and more ( just ask me, I think I’m lapsing into copy for the canning book).  But now that spring’s here, the blubber is getting thin, but that’s good ’cause we won’t need it much longer. But it can pose culinary challenges…

From the thinning blubber, empty pantry, a few left-overs, and the urgency of time constraints came the recipe for today’s lunch fare, “Corn Chowder for Idiots.” I do have an excellent corn chowder recipe that I love; it has crispy bacon and chunks of real potatoes; I’ll post that another day.  Here’s the quick and dirty. Dress it up with some freshly ground pepper and a few oyster crackers and it looks (and tastes) like the real deal.

corn chowder for idiots

Serves 4


  • 10 oz. pkg. frozen corn, or one can of corn, or whatever size you froze or canned (within reason)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 1/2 C. vegetable broth from a box*
  • 2  1/2 C. water
  • 1 1/2 C. leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 C. milk or cream, or 4 dollops of yogurt/sour cream, or omit dairy all together
  • 1/2 teas. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • more ground pepper and oyster crackers for garnish, optional

Heat olive oil in 4 qt. saucepan; add onions and garlic, saute until translucent, about 5 min. Add vegetable broth, water, corn, ground pepper, and bay leaf. Simmer for about an hour; add mashed potatoes; simmer for another hour, less will work if you’re in a hurry, more will work also. Mixture should be hearty, but definitely soup consistency. When ready to serve, bring mixture just to a boil; ladle into soup bowls; add about 1/4 C. milk or cream to each bowl, or place a dollop of yogurt or sour cream in each bowl; if desired, grind a bit more pepper on top and garnish with oyster crackers.

* When I use the boxed vegetable broth, I omit salt since boxed broths (unless low-sodium) generally have tons more salt that you want or need.