Winning corn chowder pairs sweet with spicy
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 10:14
Because cold, snowy weather is lingering into March this year, we've got the perfect excuse to share more mouth-watering original soup recipes from the city of Bowling Green's Winterfest soup and chili cookoff.
|Sandy Milligan displays her corn chowder soup, which one first place for the individual soups category. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Today's offering is Sandy Milligan's version of corn chowder, which wowed enough of the more than 200 taste-testers who passed by her table that she ended up winning first place in the individuals category for soups.
It was Milligan's second year entering the competition, as she offered a favorite recipe for potato soup in 2012.
"Last year I ran out of soup, too. I made it further this year," but again ran out of all the soup she brought before the two-hour event even ended, Milligan says.
She thinks the corn chowder hit the spot for so many people because it is different than most such chowders in several respects.
"Normally, the corn chowders that I've had seem to be not as creamy as this one. They're water-based or chicken broth-based."
Milligan dreamed up the recipe for this soup herself and has been making it for several years.
"It's reminiscent of the type of homegrown sweet corn that you cut off the cob, that you get at the end of summer."
That's not just Milligan's opinion. One person who tried a sample at the cook-off exclaimed, 'Boy, it really tastes like fresh sweet corn in there."
That's due to the most vital secret of this recipe. "Usually, corn chowder has whole corn in it and this is the creamed corn."
It's vital that you use the Pict Sweet brand, she cautions.
But keep in mind, this isn't your grandmother's creamed corn chowder.
"Several people said they liked the little touch of heat. They couldn't tell what that was from, but they felt that played nicely with the sweetness of the corn."
It turns out, Milligan includes diced jalapenos and crushed red pepper flakes.
Still other members of the public who got a taste loved the smoky flavor of the bacon that is one of the ingredients. Milligan always uses Belleville's bacon.
"The smoky (flavor) is a great play off the sweet and spicy" notes in this chowder.
Asked to share the popular recipe with the public via the Cook's Corner, Milligan admitted that she's never written it down before now, or used any measurements.
That's not to say that she never consults recipes, but even when she does, she generally modifies them to her own taste.
"I very much like to cook" and pretty much always have, she said. "I think it stems from a love of eating. If you like to eat, then you like to cook."
Soups are one of her specialities, no doubt about it.
She dreamed up a new soup just this week, one made with swiss chard, sausage and white bean.
Milligan loves to host dinner parties for friends, at which she goes all out, to the extent of making elegant place cards for each guest.
She usually offers guests a choice of soup or salad prior to the main entree. For a Valentine's dinner she made no less than three different soups - one was the corn chowder; the others were cream of mushroom and cream of broccoli.
"You can't go wrong with cream."
Along with soups, Milligan is known for her appetizers, including such recent successes as a crab and artichoke dip, and her own recipe for stuffed mushrooms.
She recently volunteered to make a few appetizers for the American Cancer Society's kickoff party for volunteers for the 2013 Daffodil Days fundraiser held at Wood County Hospital.
The Bowling Green native is president of Milligan Workshops, Inc. on Industrial Parkway. It's an outsourcing firm whose employees do finishing work for area manufacturers like assembly, inspection and packaging.
She's owned the business for 26 years, and has been sole owner since her husband's 1999 death from cancer.
2 1-lb. tubes of frozen creamed corn, thawed (I use Pict Sweet brand)
4 slices of bacon, diced (I use Belleville Brothers' bacon)
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1/4 of a jalapeno, diced with ribs & seeds removed (more or less to taste)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half & half
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat, when hot; add the olive oil, bacon, onion, crushed red pepper flakes and jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally until the bacon is rendered and the onion is tender, 5-10 minutes.
Reduce the heat a bit and add the thawed corn. Be sure to scrape all of the delicious "corn milk" from the package into the pot.
Add the cream and half & half, stirring well to make sure nothing burns on the bottom. Heat the soup until bubbly and hot all the way through.
Taste, then add salt and pepper to your liking.