Nicole of Readily Edible fame (fantastic blog...go check it out...often) was in town and somehow this project came up in conversation. I indicated that C was a real tough letter with so many great choices out there. Crab, corn, chorizo, coffee, carrot, clam, chevre, chives and myriad other ingredients made choosing one really difficult. She threw another into the mix: chanterelle mushrooms as they're both local and currently in season. Thanks, Nicole; that really helped me narrow it down.
But this got me thinking: why settle? Why compromise and just choose 1 ingredient? Sure, I had to choose an "official" one to put in the title (we're going with chanterelles, BTW) but this post is going to be a C MONSTER of sorts as we build a dish as plentiful in C ingredients as the PNW is plentiful in Subarus (likely my next car...but that's another post). I already had this dish in mind but why not just throw another C in there for good measure. We're making a wonderful crab, chanterelle and corn chowder garnished with crème fraiche and chives. How's that for not compromising?
As will be the case with many of the 26 star ingredients, I don't cook with them often if at all; chanterelles are no exception. I've cooked a few pastas where you throw a bunch of wild mushrooms (chanterelles included) in good EVOO, sauté them up and flick them up off the lip of the pan whilst sprinkling in some red pepper flakes and sea salt with intense focus and wow your date who now thinks you're Jamie Oliver without the cheeky accent (<--great visual, Bryan) and it goes over famously....but I digress. Long story short: I've never cooked just chanterelles.
What's so special about chanterelles? Well, they're local and in season but more importantly they pair very well with both the sweet corn and the crab and love to be cooked in a fat; bonus! They're a wild mushroom so they're automatically going to have that earthy and rich flavor unlike typical button mushrooms but they're also a bit sweeter and have a very nice flavor; magic things happen when you let them meet the naturally sweet crab and corn in the creamy chowder base to make everything that much better.
Crab meat (dungeness)
Celery (another C ingredient...meh)
Heavy whipping cream
Stock (chicken...it's easy)
Bacon (THE bacon, of course)
Chives (for garnish)
This is what corn should look like
OK, there are a few things in this world you need to do when cooking, no matter what. When cooking corn on the cob, throw it on the grill, PERIOD. Don't boil it, don't nuke it, don't use any other cooking method. Inclement weather be damned: use the grill. Oh, and you better get a char on a healthy portion of the kernels or you're doing it wrong...trust me on this: I'm a professional, and I most likely enjoy cooking/eating corn more than you.
This chowder is all about the animal fat. With copious amounts of butter, cream, bacon and crème fraiche it's a United Nations of fat but damn does it taste GREAT. The combo of sweet corn that's smoky from getting charred on the grill (method to the madness, people) along with the salty and smoky bacon, veggies cooked in the rendered bacon fat, earthy & rich chanterelles and finally the uber-sweet crabmeat all swimming in a creamy pool of awesomeness is...well...awesome. I considered using clams but crab is so much better and when I think PNW I don't think clam chowder; SF or Boston can have that claim to fame, we'll claim crab. Dungeness crab has quickly become one of my favorite proteins and up here it's just out of this world good; I doubt I'd have fallen so hard for it being farther from the source.
Preparation was tedious but not difficult; time consuming is more like it. Overall I think I cooked it well and my efforts paid off with a damn good chowder on a cold and windy late fall day. It was maybe a bit TOO sweet but the bacon reminds you that it's still got plenty of savory goodness and the chanterelles certainly brought a great deal of flavor and I'm stoked to have added them to this dish. That'll do, Bryan.
D should be easier...