I have to admit, my attitude has not been the best lately. I blame it on Seasonal Affective Disorder. Right around this time of year, when we're really in the thick of winter, yet still have several months of cold weather to get through, I feel all out of sorts. I do not want to wear a puffy coat, I do not want to walk to work in the freezing drizzle, I do not want to see my breath when I wait for the subway in the morning, I do not want to board the subway that is full of coughing and wheezing New Yorkers. I want to cry and stamp my feet and go on vacation somewhere warm. At which point Dan shakes his head and leaves me to enjoy my temper tantrum by myself.
Winter is hard, man. It's depressing and I hate it. And I'm not going to be on a plane anyplace warm anytime soon.
All I can do is eat like I am in a tropical paradise. Things like avocados and tortillas and limes have been sneakily making their way into our diet. And this soup, a bright and sunny mix of sweet potatoes, corn, and cilantro in a creamy broth. With a squeeze of lime, of course. It is so tasty but the colors of the chowder are enough to lift your spirits on a gray day.
The amazing thing about this chowder is that it's not only thickened by a roux (butter, flour, and milk). There is also a secret ingredient in there: corn tortillas. You cut them into small strips and toss them in the pot with the simmering chowder, which seems odd, but as it simmers, the tortillas almost melt, adding body and richness, and the delicious flavor of masa.
I won't say this recipe will cure the winter blues, but it's a start. Cook up a pot of chowder, crank up the heat, put on your bathing suit, and drink something tropical. Eat the chowder and dance around. Just don't let the neighbors see you or they'll think you've lost your mind.
Corn and sweet potato chowder
From Vegetarian Planet. This is not a very spicy chowder, and I think it could use a little heat. If you like spicy food, I'd recommend adding (taste as you go) some canned chipotle peppers, which will give the dish a nice smoky flavor.
(Serves 4 people)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped onions (I used yellow onions)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin seeds
1 tsp. paprika
2 1/2 Tbsp. unbleached white flour
6 cups whole or reduced-fat milk
3 corn tortillas, cut into strips
Kernels from 3 ears of corn and the shaved cobs (or 2 cups frozen corn)
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp. salt
ground pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
In a stockpot or large saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the flour, and, stirring constantly with a whisk, cook for 30 seconds. Slowly add the milk, 1/2 cup at a time, while continuing to stir with a whisk so the flour doesn't lump. Add the tortillas, the cobs, and the sweet potatoes, and the corn, if frozen, and simmer the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender. If you are using fresh corn, add the kernels, and let the soup simmer 2 minutes more. Add the salt, pepper, and lime. Remove the cobs and ladle the soup into bowls, and sprinkle it with cilantro.