CHEROKEE EATS: Roasted corn and squash chowder
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and chef Nico Albert studies indigenous foods to create modern recipes from traditional ingredients. She strives to create recipes in a healthy way, such as roasted corn and squash chowder.
Albert sources local foods that are traditional to Cherokees such as sweet corn and Cherokee tan pumpkins from the CN seed bank. Other ingredients are new potatoes, onions and garlic.
Albert said Cherokees can source the ingredients from their gardens using heirloom plants, the grocery story or a farmers market.
“Our ancestors ate in a really healthy way. They grew all of their own crops and they were nutrient-dense types of corn and beans and squash,” said Albert. “So I try and find ways to incorporate those ingredients back into our diet, like reinvent recipes that taste like that comforting chowder or taste creamy and taste satisfying but reincorporate those traditional ingredients to restore our health and well-being.”
To make chowder for about 10 to 12 people, Albert starts with shucking six ears of sweet corn.
“So we take the sweet corn and pull the shucks off of it and I roast it, which you can do in the oven or you can do on a grill,” she said.
She saves the cobs and boils them in a pot of water to create a broth for the chowder’s base. “It’s like using corn cob as the bones to make your stock. So you boil that for maybe 30 to 45 minutes. Really you just want smell the aroma of that fresh roasted corn in the broth, and it’ll take on a really pretty pale-yellow color, and you know you’ve gotten all of the flavor out of those corn cobs,” she said.
She cuts about 2 pounds of squash or pumpkin into cubes, cuts about 1-1/2 pounds of new potatoes into bite-sized pieces and dices 2 cups of onions mixed with garlic.
Once the broth is done, Albert places the cubed squash or pumpkin into the broth and boils until soft. “You simmer that until the squash is really, really soft,” she said. “Then you can either puree that with an immersion blender. If you don’t have one of those you can transfer it to a blender or a food processor. You puree it until it’s nice and smooth. It’ll be pretty thin. It won’t be that thick creamy chowder …….