Waste Not is a collaboration with my friend, Carrie King. The premise is simple: Carrie, a food writer and editor, shares a recipe highlighting at least one particular way that we can curb food waste. I make it at home, take a bunch of pictures, and share it with everyone here.
Growing up, I asked for corn chowder to be made for fully half of my birthday dinners. Didn’t matter how hot the early July weather was, I wanted silky, creamy chowder with sweet bursts of corn. As a kid, and in the original version of Carrie’s recipe below, there were pearly potatoes floating in there too. James is allergic to that particular nightshade and so I omitted them here. Potatoes or no, this chowder is delicious.
I’m always looking for simple ways to make a vegetarian broth and after this trial run, I’ll be putting my spent corn cobs to better use. Simmering the corn cobs in the broth renders the soup creamy without making it overly rich. A splash of cream or coconut milk at the end makes it decadent. Maybe best of all, Carrie finally convinced me to stop subbing in sweet paprika when a recipe calls for smoked. I’ll happily make a little space cabinet for this crimson wonder.
Aside from Frosty the Snowman’s pipe, I don’t know of many uses for spent corn cobs. Maybe bird feeders? Bear in mind that I’m saying that with absolutely no authority on whether that would work and based purely on inspo from Erin’s ingenious half-grapefruit bird feeder. Just seems like corn cob bird feeders could be a thing.
Practical uses aside, I definitely don’t know any recipe that has you actually ingesting corn cobs. Nor does it seem very enticing—unless you’re looking for some serious ruffage. But still, ears of corn are so much more than just their rows of glistening yellow kernels. There is lots of delicious flavor and corn milk hidden in their nooks and crannies. I think of cobs as the bones of the veggie world. You’d use bones to fortify the flavor of stock or soup, and you can totally do the same with corn. So, before you throw your next batch of naked cobs in the compost pile, here’s a recipe that at least makes sure you milk them for all their worth.
This chowder revolves around the use of the whole ear of corn (minus the husk—although those are also useful in their own right—looking at you tamales). The cobs act as an instant flavor booster for any veggie, or even chicken, soup. Sometimes I even use them to boost the flavor of broth to make corn risotto. If you had enough ears of corn, you could make pure corn stock for sundry uses. Next time you’re looking to use corn kernels-only for dinner one night, save the cobs in an airtight container in the fridge, and throw them into a pot of soup or broth the next day.
This recipe also uses one of my current spice crushes—smoked paprika. If you don’t have any in your pantry, I’d say it’s worth grabbing next market run.
I think it’s a handy spice to have hanging around because a little pinch makes anything it touches suddenly seem next-level fancy. It adds lots of interesting flavor complexity with zilch effort. Plus, for veggie based soups, stews, and chowders, it kind of fools your taste buds into thinking there might be some bacon swimming in the depths of the pot, but—spoiler alert—there’s not! Magic.
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ vidalia onion, finely chopped (about 1¼ cups)
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 ears of corn, kernels removed from cob (about 4 cups kernels, reserve cobs)
4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (optional)
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp flour
4 cups veggie stock
¾ cup cream/half & half/coconut milk
3 scallions or a bunch of chives
Heat olive oil, chopped onion, and bell pepper in a large pot over medium. Sauté until onions are translucent and peppers begin to soften, 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat if browning, you’re not looking for color here.
Add the butter, smoked paprika, corn kernels, potatoes (if using), and salt. Stir occasionally until the butter melts.
Once melted, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, making sure it doesn’t singe.
Add vegetable stock (and 1 cup water if you use potatoes), stirring to ensure the flour dissolves into the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.
Add corn cobs (break or cut in half of too long for pot) and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in cream or half & half (or coconut milk!)
Taste for seasoning and add more salt is necessary. Remove and discard corn cobs.
Finely chop scallions or chives and scatter on top of chowder to serve.
You could blend the chowder to make it even more creamy. In this case, you might even get away without adding the cream or half & half, if that’s your preference, because the pureed corn kernels will really amp up the creamy factor. If you blend, you might have to loosen the soup up with a touch more veggie stock or water.
Instead of chives, you could chop up some scallions to scatter on top.
Omit the smoked paprika if you’re not into it/don’t have it on hand.
Thanks to Carrie King for writing this post and developing the recipe. When Carrie’s not encouraging me in tiny-apartment cooking adventures, she’s a food writer and editor. Her cookbook work includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner….Life with Missy Robbins and The Chef Next Door with Amanda Freitag. She has contributed to Gather Journal and Life & Thyme and works as recipe editor at Marley Spoon and Dinnerly. Thanks to culinary school and lots of time spent in kitchens, both professional and home, she can cook just about anything, but usually just wants a
few couple few slices of pizza.
For the curious:
Our checked napkin is from Fog Linen.
What about you guys? Corn cob enthusiasts out there?