From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...We spent a day at Canterbury Village while we vacationed in New Hampshire this summer. The village, at its height, was a large and successful Shaker community. While politics, philosophy and religion are difficult to fit within the confines of a food blog, the Shakers and the food that came from their kitchens is fair game, at least as far as I'm concerned. While I took in all of the exhibits and demonstrations, I spent most of my day in the kitchens and laundry of the village. I was fascinated by all the community endeavors, but as my family and co-workers will attest, I ride brooms, I don't make them. I belonged in the kitchen. The kitchens, which at one time fed 300 people, were compact and models of Shaker skill and ingenuity. For readers across the ponds, be they east or west, the Shakers were a communal religious group whose radical interpretation of equality led to their growth in the 19th century and their demise in the 20th. They believed that men and women were children of God, brothers and sisters if you will, and that all God's children should be treated equally. An extention of that belief caused the communities they established to be celibate because in their view, brothers and sisters should not cohabitate. While that belief would eventually lead to their demise, it was not an impediment to followers who joined the communities during the 19th century. The Shakers, so named because expressive dance was part of their religious services, were known for their industry, invention and good works. They actually established the first orphanages in the United States. Shaker kitchens were also models of efficiency and small changes made to a handful of base recipes led to their reputations as great cooks. Soups and chowders were regularly served at meals in their communal dining halls, and today's featured chowder shows how their recipes can be manipulated. Brown sugar and sweet potatoes are added to a basic Shaker dish. The result is wonderful, if you are cautious. I'm going to suggest that you cut way back on the amount of sugar added to the chowder. I used just one tablespoon and was happy with the results. It is also important to drain away the bacon fat before adding stock to the pot. The goal here is flavor not grease. While this chowder is chock-full of goodies, it has a thin base. If you want a thicker chowder you'll have to add flour or cornstarch to the broth. While their is some chopping involved, the chowder can still be on the table within an hour and I must tell you, it is delicious. I do hope you'll give the recipe a try. Here's how the chowder is made.
Shaker Sweet Potato and Fresh Corn Chowder...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of The Shaker Kitchen by Jeffrey Paige
1/2 pound smoked slab bacon, diced
1-1/2 pounds red bliss potatoes, scrubbed
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (1/4-inch dice)
4-5 cups chicken stock, or to cover
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, cooked until just tender
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1) Fry bacon in a large soup pot set over medium heat just until it starts to crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, quarter and slice red potatoes about 1/4-inch thick. Add onions and bay leaves to bacon, and cook until onions are translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully drain off bacon grease and discard.
2) Add sweet and red potatoes to soup pot, add enough stock to cover potatoes, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add brown sugar, corn, parsley, scallions, and cream, and cook until heated through, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
One Year Ago Today: Rhubarb Coffee Cake with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
Two Years Ago Today: Glazed Ham Loaf
Three Years Ago Today: Whole Wheat Olive Flat Bread