The upcoming July 4 holiday inspired me to look back at recipes from U.S. Presidents for alternatives to unimaginative menus of hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad. Many presidential libraries post recipes on their web sites, but I found a good source in the “Favorite Dishes of the Presidents” chapter in Capitol Hill Cooks, by Linda Bauer (Taylor Trader Publishing, 2010). The Texas-based author started publishing recipes from U.S. Presidents and members of Congress in the American Sampler Cookbook during Ronald Reagan’s second term. Capitol Hill Cooks benefits Homes for Our Troops, which provides specially designed homes to injured veterans.
This recipe from Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th President (1877-1881) gave me something to do with corn besides eating it off the cob. I also couldn’t resist the chance to stick an onion with whole cloves and plop it into the soup pot. Hayes, from Ohio, served in the Civil War before being elected President in a contest with as much controversy about the popular versus electoral votes as the Gore-Bush race in 2000. The Hayes recipe fits the holiday theme, as both corn and jalapeno peppers are plants native to the Americas.
The soup, a spicy cousin to New England corn chowder, can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled (if you do the latter, add a bit more salt and pepper). It makes a good appetizer at any kind of gathering, including a picnic or cook-out. Serve lemonade, too, to honor First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes, nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy” because of the official ban on wine and liquor at White House gatherings during the (perhaps too) reform-minded Hayes presidency.
Rutherford B. Hayes Corn Soup
4 to 6 ears of corn (to yield 2 cups of kernels and corn milk) [I used 4]
4 tablespoons butter
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
3 1/2 cups milk [I used 1 1/2 cups and the soup didn’t seem too thin]
1 small onion, stuck with 3 whole cloves
1/2 cup heavy cream [I used half and half]
1 cup chicken stock
Pinch sugar [I used 1/2 teaspoon]
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Shuck and desilk the corn. Cut the kernels of each cob with a sharp knife into a bowl, then, with the flat of the blade (I used a spoon), press out all the remaining milk of the cob in the same bowl. Set aside.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add the jalapeno pepper and saute over medium high heat until the pepper is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until it thickens and begins to brown. Gradually stir in the milk/stock combination and bring to a boil. Add the onion. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the corn. Stir in the cream and sugar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- When ready to serve, remove the onion. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.