December 29, 2014

Cozy Post-Christmas Dinner

The stockings were hung, the cards were sent, bellies were filled and treats were bestowed! Phew! That's A LOT of work and now its time to relax and PARTY!
So, what to do with all those leftover ingredients? Make a YUMMY corn chowder while still basking in the glow from the tree, and before the sad process begins of taking the decorations down until next year.

The recipe I have for corn chowder is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Peter Christian's Recipes, and though it's been adapted by my friend Meg, and then by me, the recipe still has the same essence of this fabulous, quaint New England restaurant. 

Peter Christian's Restaurant is a little place in New London, NH where I have enjoyed many a meal since I was a young girl. At one point, there was even a Peter Christian's outpost in Hanover, NH where I went to college. So, I got to eat their goodies at our vacation home AND on campus! (I even tried to get a job there while in college, wearing my best version of hippie-chic, but alas, my preppiness was too obvious and I didn't get the job…). Anyway, Peter Christian's still exists and if you happen to be in New London, its a required stop! Though under different ownership, it still has the same ambiance that made us all love it in the first place. 

I made a little dinner for my husband and me, to relax by the tree, but I doubled the recipe because at this point in time, I have approximately seven extra kids (to my three) at any point circulating through during this holiday week and I need FOOD and plenty of it for whenever someone's hungry. Because at this point, this is what my front hall looks like. That's normal to have a ping-pong table smack in the center, right? Ha ha!
The recipe here serves 6, but as I've mentioned, it can easily be doubled. I'll post it below. But here we go! Its SO yummy! And super EASY!
First, I grabbed all the ingredients.
The recipe calls for one medium onion, but since it was the holidays, and the grocery store was completely picked over, all they had were small onions. So I chopped up two.
 The easiest way to chop onions is to slice them in half.
 Then slice opposite the grain (so to speak) so when you slice again the other way...
…you instantly have a nice diced onion!
 The next ingredient you need to chop is celery. I just keep slicing the stalks the long way so the pieces get continually thinner...
and thinner...
…and then, just like the onions, I line up the pieces and chop the ends and they  end up in a nice dice with half the effort. I know you all know most of this, but I write the steps out in case my kids - who are learning to cook- actually read this :)
Next up - potatoes. I use golden potatoes for this recipe because they add a nice creamy texture to the chowder, but any potato would work.
Make a nice diced bunch to add to the mix.
Once all the veggies are chopped, its time to melt the butter and begin assembling the chowder. Oh, and it smells REALLY good so beware of lurking husbands and kids!
Once the butter is melted, add the onions and celery and mix it together.
Then, add the potatoes and let it sauté for about ten minutes or so to brown and soften slightly.
Its looking pretty good at this point and people are swilling around, so you know its time for the next step.
Add one cup of water. I LOVE these measuring cups where you can see the amounts from the top down, and not just the sides. You can find them in most grocery stores.
Once you've added the water, let the whole mixture simmer until the veggies are soft and tender.
Next up? Two cans of creamed corn. YUM! Part of my family grew up in Amish country, so creamed corn is a major staple of our holidays. Usually made from scratch by my Aunt Sue with her true Amish recipe, I revert to the easy kind out of a can. Its still good, but definitely not as delicious as my aunt's!
Mix everything together well to blend all the ingredients.
Milk is the next ingredient. I use 1% milk, but any kind of milk is fine. 
 Mix that together and blend it well. There's enough going on that the fat content of the milk doesn't make a huge difference because we are adding a little…
…light cream.
Next up… seasonings! I use a LOT of pepper when I cook. So you can use less. I put in about a little more than a teaspoon of pepper, and about a teaspoon of salt. And for the secret kick, add Old Bay seasoning! It adds the perfect bite. If you're not familiar with Old Bay, get so! Used a lot on the Mid-Atlantic shores with crabs and other goodies, it adds the perfect to touch to almost anything and I like it a LOT more than cayenne pepper. Its also great on popcorn!
 While the chowder is simmering for approximately 20 minutes, chop up basil to add as a garnish that gives a nice kick at the end. To do so, trim the basil stems and roll up the leaves...
 …then slice cross-wise to sort of "julienne" the basil...
and this is what it will look like. Perfect little strips to add to the chowder!
Looks and SMELLS so YUMMY!
Now comes the fun - setting the table! The company, Harbor Sweets, started in the basement next to my husband's childhood home by Mr. Ben Strohecker. 
Harbor Sweets makes these little candies that are called Sweet Sloops. They are delicious little nuggets of butter crunch sails, covered in white and dark chocolate and dipped in nuts as the waves along the hull. The story goes, that my mother-in-law bought every piece of candy Mr. Strohecker made his first year, thus ensuring he had enough money to keep going. And the rest is history! We get lots of sweet sloops and other candies from Harbor Sweets every Christmas so they are the perfect favor for my cozy dinner with my hubby!
I put them on a little Wedgewood "Nantucket" plate under a bell jar I painted.
Here, you can better see my painting. I used white paint pens on the outside of the glass jar and just drew a simple, wintry scene. The I added a ribbon to decorate the top.
I found these pretty gold polka-dotted bowls at Home Goods and knew they'd be perfect for my little dinner.
I added some crusty bread to use for sopping up the yummy chowder and used gold-plated acorns as napkin rings.
 I LOVE favors at dinner :)
Bon appétit!
And when it was all said and done, my husband and I walked our grand puppy, Oakley, to the lighthouse around the block, still decorated for the holidays, and enjoyed the night air while thinking about the year to come.


Corn Chowder - Serves 6

In a soup pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter

Dice and sauté for 10 minutes:
     1 medium onion
     1 celery stalk
     2 potatoes

Add 1 cup of water and simmer until veggies are tender

Stir in:
     2 1lb. cans of creamed corn
     2 1/2 cups milk
     1. cup of light cream

Season with:
     1 teaspoon of black pepper 
     1 teaspoon of salt
     1 tablespoon of Old Bay Seasonings (or more or less, depending on taste)

Continue to simmer for 20 minutes
Garnish with fresh, chopped basil


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