I’m thinking of pitching the networks about a Top Chef moms’ edition. Where untrained home cooks come together to battle each other in a series of challenges, one of which would be an arm wrestle followed by a beer chug. If you want to try this with a group of neighborhood moms, the Executive Gift Shoppe sells 32-ounce mugs for the bargain basement price of $35 each.
The Executive Gift Shoppe being THE place to shop for the executive in your life, should you wish to buy him or her a gigantic beer mug, laser pointer, or something from the “Executive games” category. Which disappointingly turned out to be nothing more than rosewood chess and card sets. Although the Business & Pleasure Stationery Box is available for the naughtier executive in your life.
Another challenge would be the cook-out-of-the fridge battle where we’d scrounge around shelves filled with old yogurts, shriveled cucumbers and a pack of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate. Trying to make something so tasty Tom Colicchio would smack his lips and sing “Hallellujah!”
Which is what I do just about every Sunday (cook out of a naked fridge, not the Tom thing, but that would be very cool too). So heads up fellow moms – if we ever do battle on Top Chef, I may have a pretty unfair advantage here.
If I can teach you anything with this blog, it’s that a package of diced pork will go a long way to saving your hide. Trust me on this one. It’s more important than bottled water in the face of an impending hurricane. On more than one occasion I’ve crumpled down in relief in front of my refrigerator, head bowed, kissing the floor, thankful for my measly diced pancetta.
Last night was no exception. Got home from a weekend away, kids were cranky, and both Rodney and I were exhausted from two days of zone defense. Opened up the fridge, and as usual, crickets. We were now in canned tuna territory, which isn’t a bad option, but I think I did that last weekend. And the weekend before. And the weekend before that.
Delivery is an alternative, I know. I live in NYC where I can get a spicy massaman curry delivered at 6AM. With a 6-pack of beers no less. It’s a mental illness really, but I just hate ordering in.
So, faced with some pretty bleak options, I begrudgingly narrowed my focus on some tired corn that had been waiting for their turn in the pan for, oh, about three weeks. But then, nestled in the deli drawer, I found it– a package of diced pancetta.
You can flavor soups, stews and sauces with its bacony goodness by doing nothing more than ripping open the package and dumping its contents into a hot pan with a little oil.
So with my sad corn and hero pancetta, I got to work, scrounging around for what remaining ingredients I could find to make a reasonable corn soup. And you know what? You can make a damn good soup with old corn and a few other vegetables that may be past their prime. Maybe one day, like those guys who age cheese in fancy French caves, I’ll start aging vegetables and will open a cute little storefront on Bleecker Street to show everyone how they, too, can make fabulous meals with a few moldy carrots. But that’ll be after I win Top Chef of course.
- 4-oz package pancetta
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- ¾ orange bell pepper, finely diced
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- 5 ears corn, kernels removed, cobs discarded (sometimes I’ll use them to add more corn flavor to a chowder broth, but when pressed for time, I usually discard)
- 3 cups chicken stock, heated to a simmer
- ¼ cup of half and half
- 2 stalks of green garlic, cleaned, and sliced thinly
- In a dutch oven on medium heat, sautee the pancetta until crispy. When crisp, remove to paper towels to drain.
- Add the shallot and bell peppers to the remaining oil, season with salt, and sautee until softened (about 4-5 minutes)
- Add the cayenne pepper and sautee for 30 seconds.
- Then add the corn kernels and chicken stock to the pot.
- Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then turn down to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the corn has softened.
- Puree the soup until thickened but still chunky (I like to use an immersion blender). Stir in the half and half, and keep warm while you finish the garlic.
- In a small sautee pan over medium heat, sautee the green garlic remaining olive oil (about 2 minutes).
- When softened, add the garlic and pancetta to the pureed soup, stir together and serve.
- I like to serve the soup ladled into bowls, topped with freshly-ground pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.