Recipe A Day #9: “Almost Meatless” Potato Corn Chowder

I'll openly admit, I had my doubts about this recipe at first (you'll see why in a minute). But I was a fool, a total fool, to doubt this delicious potato corn chowder, which I adapted, scaled up and simplified from Joy Manning and Tara Desmond's exceptional cookbook Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet. Note that we've previously reviewed this cookbook here at CK and loved it.

Let me tell you, this chowder is really good. Shockingly good. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

"Almost Meatless" Potato Corn Chowder

4 slices bacon
1 large onion
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 lbs frozen corn (about 7-8 cups)
12-14 ounces tofu
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 cups water + 3 bouillon cubes (or 8 cups homemade chicken or veggie stock)
2 bay leaves
6 2-inch pieces of parmesan cheese rind
Fresh chives or parsley for garnish, optional

1) Fry bacon in a large soup pot until crispy. Remove from pan, leaving bacon fat, let cool and chop into pieces.

2) Saute onion in bacon fat on medium high heat until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add potatoes, about 3 cups of the corn, the parmesan cheese rinds, and the 8 cups water and bouillon cubes (or stock). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

3) While soup is simmering, place tofu and corn into a food processor and process until smooth (do this in two separate batches if you have a smaller food processor; also if corn is well-frozen, add 1/4 cup water to help liquify it). Once the potatoes are tender, transfer the pureed corn/tofu mixture to the soup, bring it to a boil once again, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

4) Remove bay leaves and paremsan rinds before serving. Serve in bowls, garnished with the bacon bits and optional chives or parsley.

Serves 10.

Recipe Notes:
1) Clearly, the striking part of this recipe--and the part that's somewhat hard to believe will be as good is it is--is the pureed corn and tofu. Trust me on this: it makes the soup incredibly rich and creamy, with no cream, no milk, no dairy! Believe me, we had our doubts too, but once we tasted it, we were sold. This is a brilliant recipe element created by Tara Desmond and Joy Manning. Really, really creative.

2) Optional pureeing of the soup: If you take a look at Tara and Joy's recipe (see page 72), they tell readers to puree about half of the soup, either by transferring it into your food processor or by using an immersion blender. We skipped that step and were very happy with the results. Consider it optional.

3) On the parmesan cheese rinds: Tara and Joy's version instructs readers to remove the parmesan cheese rinds along with the bay leaves when the soup is done simmering. I think, first of all, you can consider leaving the parmesan rinds entirely out of the recipe if you like. Consider them optional. However, if you do include them, please don't forget to fish them out of the soup before serving. Heh. Here's why: I decided to mess with Laura and deliberately put one of the rind pieces in her bowl, telling her only that there was a surprise in her soup that she'd notice only if she paid careful attention as she ate. She didn't. Halfway through her bowl, while ooohing and ahhing about how great the soup tasted, she stopped and shrieked. "What is this?? Did you put gum into my soup???" The takeaway here is this: while the parmesan rinds add flavor and richness to the soup, they aren't exactly ... masticable. Take them out. Unless you enjoy messing with your spouse’s head.

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