Wednesday, November 11, 2009

lunch with Teri

There are a few people in my life that I really enjoy spending time with. Unfortunately, because of schedules it doesn’t happen as often as I would like. One of these people is my friend Teri. We have known each other for more years than I want to admit, but even if we haven’t talked or got together in a while we can still pick up right where we left off. It's that kind of comfortable, cozy slipper, wrapped up in a blanket kind of friendship.

On the flip side, she is a creative genius in many ways and when we have an opportunity to do something creative together, whether it is design or food related…stand back! We sort of feed off of each other and when those creative juices start pumping just watch out. Who knows what is going to happen…although the end result is usually quite satisfying.

I put a call into her not so long ago, putting in a request for a lunch date at one of my favorite places to eat in my hometown San Juan Capistrano. It’s called Ramos House. The idea of the restaurant/ house is simple; like the old days, its owner lives and works at the house, the wines are kept in the cellar, the herbs are grown in the garden and the ice cream is turned out back. The menu changes daily and everything is made from scratch.  I have probably eaten everything on the menu, or close to it.

This particular day sitting out on Ramos’ covered patio, it was a little cool. Although I was sitting next to the wood burning stove with one of the provided blankets on my lap, I wanted something warm. The Corn Chowder with Truffled Popcorn was the ticket.

Thankfully, for both you and me John Q. the chef/owner has published his cookbook Ramos House Cafe: Recipes from the first 5 years  so I am able to share this recipe with you.

I did make this at home and it was just as good…although it would have been better if Teri were there.


Corn Chowder
From the Ramos House

10 ears of sweet white corn
1 yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
¾ cup butter
¾ cup masa harina (corn flour)
½ cup diced red bell peppers
1 bunch scallions, thinly chopped
½ cup celery, diced
1 Tbsp. chipotle chilies, pureed
1 cup white corn hominy
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
1 russet potato, diced into ¼ inch cubes

Freshly popped corn
Truffle oil (optional)

Cut kernels from the cobs and set aside. Place corn cobs in a large stock pot and cover with water (approx. 8 cups). Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat and strain the corn stock through a sieve, discarding the cobs and reserving the liquid.

In a separate stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add masa harina and incorporate using a whisk. Stirring constantly over medium-low heat, cook the masa roux for approximately 5 minutes. Add onions, peppers, celery, garlic, scallions, oregano, thyme, chipotles, and reserved corn kernels. Stir to coat the vegetables with roux. Cook for 5 more minutes over medium, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching the bottom of the pot. Add corn broth and remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer. If soup seems too thick, add water, chicken stock or vegetable stock. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Top off with some freshly popped corn and drizzle on some truffle oil.

Serves 6 -8

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