Life

Three Food Writers Battle To Make The Best Corn-Centric Thanksgiving Side

Thanksgiving is here. And what better to be thankful for — or to use as a distraction from family bickering — than a new Cooking Battle. That’s right gang, we’re back at it. Roasting each other instead of turkeys (you’re supposed to sous vide the turkeys, obvi).

This month, we’re focused on corn. Why? Because it’s one ingredient from the common “American” Thanksgiving feast that’s actually really American. Also because when Zach pitched the idea of us all doing wild rice or squash dishes Vince and I were filled with cold panic. So this felt like a good landing place.

We’re joined this month by Isaac Toups — a friend to the site, Top Chef contestant, and one of the most fun, friendly characters in the entire food world. (He also brought along Peppah, his fictionalized pet iguana, invented by Vince.) Besides being someone we’re all fans of, Toups is the owner-chef of the much-lauded Toups Meatery, the author of a cookbook titled (you gotta love this man) Chasing the Gator, and a multiple Beard-award nominee. He’s also, as we discovered this week, blazingly funny.

Get salivating with this picture of Toups’ famous “Hot Quail over mixed veg” and then read on for the roasting. As always, your meanest comments, shares, and shout outs are much appreciated!

— Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director, Uproxx Life

PAST RESULTS:

BLT Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Mac & Cheese Showdown — 1) Vince 2) (tie) Zach, Steve
Taco Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Winter Stew Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Date Night Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Pasta Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Hot Beef Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Shellfish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
BBQ Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Pumpkin Spice Showdown — 1) (tie) Vince, Zach 2) Steve
Thanksgiving Side Dish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Chili Cook-off Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Nacho Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Burger Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Breakfast Burrito Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Fried Noodle Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Fried Chicken Sandwich Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown Rematch: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Italian Comfort Food Showdown: 1) Steve 2) (tie) Zach & Vince
Date Night Showdown Part II: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Party Food Showdown: 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Grilling Showdown: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Film and TV Food Showdown: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Breakfast Sandwich Showdown: 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve

CURRENT SCORE:

We’re giving three points to the winner and one to second place for each round. All votes are counted equally. As it stands, the score is:

ZACH: 38
VINCE: 36
STEVE: 31

ZACH’S CRANBERRY AND CHESTNUT FRIED NASAUMP CAKES

I have a lot of thoughts on Thanksgiving — but in the end, my energy goes into the food. I love cooking for family and friends and that’s how I choose to celebrate this holiday. As a part of that celebration, when I serve dinner there’s always a little bit of history via Indigenous dishes on the table.

That’s why I love cooking with corn. This year, I’m making a hybrid version of Nasaump — a Wampanoag corn porridge made with animal fat, bone stock, nuts, and berries. I’m adjusting the technique slightly to make more of a fried corncake by way of polenta side dish.

What’s great about this dish is that it’s freakin’ delicious and screams Thanksgiving flavors. It also gives you a chance to incorporate Wampanoag food into a Thanksgiving. Which, after all, is at least sort of based on Pilgrims and Wampanoag getting down with some feasting together. It’s a flavor-historical win-win.

Ingredients:

Zach Johnston

Like all hominy, grits, polenta, nasaump, and sofkee (the Cherokee version) this recipe calls for nixtamalized cornmeal. The Indigenous method of nixtamalization breaks down the non-digestible aspects of corn and amps up the nutritional values by adding ash (or lye) before drying and milling. It’s what makes cornmeal and masa so damn delicious and nutritious.

So, the ingredients you’ll need to recreate this dish are:

  • One cup Heritage Yellow Cornmeal
  • Three cups Bone Stock
  • Duck Fat
  • Half-cup Fresh Cranberries (halved)
  • Half-cup Roasted Chestnuts (halved)
  • One sprig Fresh Sage
  • One sprig Fresh Savory
  • Salt

That’s it. This is a fairly low-impact recipe at the end of the day. Also, if you want to make this a vegan option for your table, substitute the duck fat with nice olive oil or even a pumpkin oil and switch out the bone stock for a veg broth. Also, try not to add any sweeteners. Cornmeal and corn, in general, is already plenty sweet.

Cook:

Zach Johnston

Start by melting a heaping tablespoon of duck fat in a medium pot. As soon as it’s melted, add in the cup of cornmeal. Stir continually, coating the cornmeal, allowing it to bloom and become more fragrant. This should take no more than one minute.

Next, add three cups of stock. I have a fowl stock on hand that I made from old duck, chicken, and turkey bones. I keep them in the freezer and when I have enough, I make a stock. (Honestly, you can use storebought chicken stock too). I also like to use a three-to-one ratio when making solid polenta. I tend to use a four-to-one ratio if I’m making grits or sofkee so that it has a more porridge-like feel.

Zach Johnston

The key here is to never stop stirring. If you let this sit, it’ll clump. If you do get clumps, grab a whisk and give it a good whisking.

You want to cook the cornmeal for a good ten to fifteen minutes until a thick porridge forms. The cornmeal porridge should stick to the wood paddle in thick layers.

It’s time to season!

Zach Johnston

I add a good pinch of high-quality sea salt, the halved cranberries and chestnuts, and minced sage and savory.

I mix that into the porridge and keep stirring for three to five minutes. Basically, what I’m looking for is the cranberries to just start to break down and turn a bright red. So, once I see the skins loosening from the berry, I know it’s done.

Zach Johnston

Next, I melt some duck fat into a standard loaf pan. You can do this by melting the fat in a small pan and transferring it or just turn your oven on low and put the loaf pan and fat in there for a couple of minutes. Just make sure the pan is room temp before you fill it.

I use a spatula to evenly spread the nasaump porridge into the loaf pan. I cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to set. This will take around 60 to 90 minutes to set fully. You’ll know it’s ready when nasaump pulls away from the edges of the loaf pan (as you can see in the photo below).

Zach Johnston

Serve:

Zach Johnston

Use your spatula to pop the nasaump loaf loose. It should be completely loose with very little effort.

Use a large cutting board to invert the loaf pan and remove the nasaump loaf. It should right slide out.

Cut the loaf into one-inch slices with a sharp chef’s knife.

Heat a non-stick pan with another tablespoon of duck fat (you can also use olive oil here).

Zach Johnston

Once the pan is nice and hot, place in three to four pieces of the nasaump to brown. This will reheat the nasaump and provide a crisp outer edge.

Use a set of tongs to flip the nasaump cakes once a crust forms. Repeat with the rest of the corncakes in batches.

I serve the nasaump cakes with a little cranberry sauce (recipe here). But, they don’t really need it. The smells coming from my kitchen are pure Thanksgiving with duck fat, cranberries, corn, and herbs combining into a delicious aroma.

The corncakes have a nice, crisp outer layer with a soft and very moist interior. The combination of slightly tart berries, fatty, earthy, and crunchy chestnuts, the sweetness of the corn, and wild herbal notes combine into one perfect bite. This is the sort of side that screams for fatty turkey and gravy.

Zach Johnston

Steve on Zach’s Dish:

As if you didn’t have enough advantages — professional kitchen experience, the bountiful selection of heritage products found in Berlin, a great editor who Slacks you things like “Just take it easy and focus on cooking today, I’m swamped and gonna have to do mine at 2am tonight!” — now you learned how to edit photos, too. Did you take a Lightroom workshop or something? Balancing the corn-fruit-cakes sitting in the foreground with mini-pumpkins? Soft-focus rosemary and thyme?

Real talk Zach: Are you cheating on us with Bon Appétit?

Okay, let’s roast! This dish looks… okay, it looks great. And it seems inventive. And it references your Indigenous heritage. And it’s also enough of a known entity for me to imagine the taste (polenta cakes are common in Northern Italy) — which is a good thing for you because polenta cakes crisped in duck fat are delicious. I could do without the tart berries and I genuinely hate chestnuts, but do I really want to be the white dude talking trash on Indigenous ingredients? Nope. (Though I’d bet anything there was an Indigenous person at some point who also recognized that chestnuts taste like soil and have a slimy texture.)

So here’s my only critique and I’ll admit: It’s a thin one. As a side on Thanksgiving, a meal that’s all about popping you in the teeth with huge umami flavors, isn’t this dish going to get lost a little? As gluttonous Americans slurp gravy straight from the boat and bicker over who gets to gnaw which bone (we know which bone Vince’s mom wants to gnaw on), are people really going to go back for more of your delicate, nuanced corn cakes? I guess that depends if you’re hanging with a bunch of commenters named FrotcastPhil and FartAKiss or your new Bon Appétit friends.

Isaac, I know we’ve given you a horrible example of how hard we roast in this contest, but for God’s sake please come up with something and drive it into the ground until Zach runs to hide in shame. Isn’t there some unspoken Southern rule like “Never, EVER mix duck fat and cranberries!” that can save Vince and I here? Help us Toups, you’re our only hope.

Vince on Zach’s Dish:

Hey, if I wanted to pop loose a loaf I’d take some Metamucil, am I right? I kid, I kid. Honestly this challenge might as well be the “try to cook like Zach challenge” so I’m not surprised he turned in a dish that’s hard to criticize. “Hey, guys, let’s do a dish I have in my hip pocket. You have 12 hours, go!”

The cornmeal roux feels like pandering to our guest judge (and his lizard sidekick, Peppah, who Isaac found swimming in a roux one fateful morning). This is all pretty Greek to me, but having grown up as the designated polenta stirrer at my great aunt’s house during family feasts (she had one of those giant copper pots) it’s not entirely unfamiliar. Then I read Bill Buford’s account in Heat where he says the best way to cook polenta is just leave it in the pot all damned day and don’t stir. Whatever, I did it Zach’s way and I’m grateful for the workout.

What do I even say here? Maybe the untreated cranberries will be super tart, like your mother? Might be a little plain? Fine, it looks pretty good. I’d like to eat those corn cakes for breakfast with some fried eggs, and then argue with my cousin Vinny about instant grits and the two yutes. Anyway, way to cook food you’re super familiar with, bitch. Oh, and is that a centerpiece you made with gourds? Martha friggin Stewart over here. Did you rest it on a homemade doily? If you ask me it’s not a real roast challenge dish unless you have to look up recipes on the internet.

Isaac on Zach’s Dish:

You know, right off the bat, I do appreciate the fried and crispy grits take. But to me, this is grits if you didn’t like grits. What do you have in here? Cranberries and chestnuts? I was all like where’s the bacon and something more savory. But, you know, I’m not hatin’ but… you called me to hate.

My concern is who’s doing all these steps during Thanksgiving? You’re cooking this like grits. You’re setting it. You’re slicing it. You pan fry it. I think most of the people I hang out with are going to be half-drunk, half-stoned on the couch already and not want to do all this.

One of these pictures, before you fry it, hum … remember back in the ‘80s when everyone had those Jell-O molds? You know, the ones that tasted so good when they actually didn’t? That’s what this reminded me of. Hey, “It looks like pale pâté!” It’s Night of the Living Pâté!

But, I do appreciate you cooking down the grits properly. Using good cornmeal and whatnot. I went sideways with the ingredients with all this “bone stock” … As opposed to what, brother? Everyone’s stock has bones in it. We’ve been makin’ stock with bones for years!

You know what, man, it looks like an olive loaf if olive loaf came back from the dead.

VINCE’S CORNBREAD STUFFING WITH POBLANO AND CHIVES

Vince Mancini

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving is cooking, and my favorite thing about cooking on Thanksgiving is that it gives me something to do besides stand around awkwardly making small talk. Fam wants to chat? Talk to me while I fill the ravioli or whatever.

Okay, so the only ground rules for this one were “use corn.” That made things pretty easy for me. What’s the best Thanksgiving side? Stuffing! How do you incorporate corn into a stuffing? Cornbread! Why chives and poblano? Well, my hero, Jacques Pepin, makes these corn souffles with poblano and gruyere that I love, and I like that poblano/corn/chive combo. Plus replacing bell peppers in the trinity with poblano peppers seemed relatively unblasphemous and true to my Central Valley roots.

The Cornbread

The first step in cornbread stuffing is, as you might imagine, the cornbread. I’d actually never made it before and I probably did like five unforgivably sacrilegious things according to cornbread purists, but as a complete novice it tasted really good and that’s kind of all I care about (feel free to flame away! as an Italian-American I can appreciate Southerners’ intense food pedantry).

Since I admittedly didn’t really know what I was doing, I used this recipe I found online (Vince’s cooking tip for the day: if you don’t know how to cook something, just look up a bunch of recipes for it, find one that looks good, and cook that shit! You can tweak it for your own purposes). To that I added real corn, to make it more about the actual corn, and subbed in some Einkorn flour. That’s an ancient wheat variety that’s supposed to have more of the actual grain in it — it seemed to fit the challenge and it has a nice faded gold color to it.

Vince Mancini
  • 2 cobs worth of sweet corn
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal (I’m not a cornmeal expert and I ain’t about to grind my own, but I used Bob’s Red Mill Medium Grind)
  • 1 cup Einkorn flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of MSG
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided

Cast iron in the oven at 425. Dry ingredients in a bowl, wet ingredients in a measuring cup. After I cut the corn off the cob I tried to squeeze all the remaining starchy juice into the measuring cup just to get all the corn sweetness and flavor out of it. Mix it up with a spatula, add three tablespoons melted butter to the mix. Take out the pan, add three tablespoons of butter to the cast iron, add the mix to the pan (you get a nice sizzle). Bake for 25 minutes or so.

Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini

Oh my God. It was so good. It basically bakes in a big pool of browned butter and gets this thick, buttery crunch layer all around it. It’s a good idea to make more than you need for the stuffing because there’s no way you’re not going to eat fresh-from-the-oven cornbread. It’s not as sweet as boxed cornbread (which, not gonna lie, is still pretty good), but it has a lingering, creeping sweetness that makes you want to eat and eat. The relatively coarse grains make it nice and crumbly so it kind of melts in your mouth. I usually don’t like fruits and nuts and chunks of shit in my bread but in this case the corn was just the right textural contrast.

Okay, time for the stuffing.

Vince Mancini
  • About 5/8ths of day-old cornbread from previous recipe, crumbled into a bowl
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, cubed
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • about half a loaf of sweet Italian bread, cubed and toasted
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 sweet Italian sausages
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • Some chives

I haven’t bought my Thanksgiving turkey yet so I didn’t have giblets, but I like sausage in my stuffing (I guess I take after your mom) so I grabbed a couple of sweet Italian sausages. Remove the casings and brown the sausage in some olive oil. Set aside. Add one stick of butter to the pan. I like to start my bay leaves in the butter just to infuse that flavor into the oil. (I leave them whole so I can take them out at the end).

Vince Mancini

Then the onion, celery, poblanos and start to sautee. After about five minutes, add the garlic. Season with salt and a very generous amount of black pepper. Get those veggies nice and soft (10-15 min, say) then turn it down and add most of the other stick of butter, the browned sausage, and your chopped chives. Turn a couple times to mix.

Vince Mancini

Pour that over the bread mixture, mix it up real nice, and add it to a casserole dish. Hopefully, you have some butter left over to drizzle over the top. (I’m sure Zach or some purist is going to give me shit for cooking this in a casserole dish instead of inside the turkey or some other more “authentic” version of stuffing. I dunno, man. Maybe? That’s just not the dish I’m making.) Bake at 350 for 30 minutes-ish.

Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini

Man, I love Thanksgiving food. I love stuffing. It’s just one giant hash of pure goodness where the messier the plate is the more beautiful it is. I love a huge messy plate of bread baked in a gallon of butter with sausage and peppers and chives and corn. Wanna pour some gravy on it? Go for it! This is the perfect pig-out-and-pass-out-on-the-couch-afterwards dish, which is exactly what you want on Thanksgiving.

Zach on Vince’s Dish:

In the immortal words of Chef Sean Brock, “you can’t make good cornbread without good cornmeal. You’ll just be wasting everyone’s time.” Also, wheat flour and sugar in your cornbread? Come on, man! Good cornmeal is already sweet enough to shine and adding wheat to cornbread turns into cake not cornbread.

At the end of the day, I’m just not really inspired by this dish. Where are the Thanksgiving herbs? Sage, thyme, rosemary? Why wasn’t the sausage seared off to get a nice Malliard reaction? Why is there Italian bread in a “cornbread” stuffing? Wait, you didn’t use any stock or broth? Without that, I can’t image this stuffing tasted of anything (even you say it needs gravy). I want to say pick a lane with this recipe but with subpar corn cake and store-bought Italian bread without any use of stock, I don’t know if there’s a viable lane to pick.

Lastly, this just looks, well, boring. Nothing jumps out as special and aren’t Thanksgiving dishes supposed to be the time when you pull out all the stops? I don’t know if I’d even bother going back for seconds. This looks more like the side dish I’d sneak the dog on my way back to the gravy.

Steve on Vince’s Dish:

Well Jesus, Zach, you really went in there. Normally, I would soften the edges of your roast in my benevolent editor way, but I’m tired of you and Vince purring at one another when you’re meant to be roasting. For the past three months, it’s been a lovefest in the comments between you two and then you get to me and it’s like I ran over your cat and served it to you in a bisque. So roast on, my dude, roast on!

As for you, Mancini, your brand has become “I know what the masses like” and clearly you’ve done that again here: cornbread, MORE bread (!), sausage, etc. Who out there in commenterland is going to object to your bread-on-bread stuffing take? Not when you have sausage and (holy fucking Christ that is sooooo much) butter. But buddy, no thyme? No parsley? No sage? It’s like you don’t even subscribe to the “60s Folk Duos” station on Spotify!

Aside from your egregious lack of herbs, I feel like you’re focused on the wrong “holy trinity” here. You’re doing the Cajun holy trinity of onions, peppers, and celery to appease Toups, but the thanksgiving trinity is with carrots. If this was a Cajun cornbread stuffing — paprika, andouille sausage (or better yet, boudin!), cayenne, crawfish/turkey broth — then I could see it. But this isn’t Cajun stuffing. This is a mild, very lightly seasoned, almost completely spiceless take that will most certainly satisfy but probably not thrill.

At least not when there are 50 sides to choose from and everyone is milling about, talking about Zach’s fruitcakes with their pinkies in the air. And they haven’t even gotten to the soup yet!

Isaac on Vince’s Dish:

I appreciate a pander as much as anybody but, honestly, looking at this dish, not even my pet lizard Shepherd would eat this stuff.

First off, he says he’s never made cornbread. That’s obvious ‘cause that’s a whack job cornbread recipe. It’s got MSG in it? Who in the Night of the Living Dead puts MSG in cornbread? Honestly, in one of these pictures with the big section of it, it looks like Big Bird threw up in it or took a poop in it. You pick. I’m not really sure.

And those other pictures, I was like, “Oh, yeah, I remember my first gruel! You remember hangin’ out in the 1700s right after the Bubonic Plague and we didn’t have a lot to eat but we had gruel?” That’s what this reminds me of.

Okay, we’ve got Poblano. Then he went cornbread. And, now, we’ve got Italian sausage? Let’s pick one genre to crap on and just crap on that one exclusively. Let’s not mix our crapping of the genres. Let’s screw one people’s cuisine up not everyone’s all at once.

STEVE’S BEER-CORN-CHEESE CHOWDER WITH CORN MADELINE MUFFIN

Since my brand in this contest has become “insufferable over-thinker” but I also want to win, I tried this month to keep all my extra ornamentation to the ideation part of the contest and leave the recipe itself rather simple.

So here’s my overblown inspiration:

Sunny 70s So-Cal sepia-saturated colors. Beer and corn — both of which I’ve enjoyed in cheese-infused chowders — combined together in one mega-soup (#Soups4Toups). All topped with a little hardcore pandering: Bacon! MSG! Browned butter! Chanterelles! Beer!

Oh and also, a French-ish Madeline-muffin because something something Cajun/ French connection and I’m sure you’re all just going to say it was regular cornbread anyway.

And here’s what I left out, because I’m an absolute picture of restraint:

  • Mushroom powder (my new umami power ingredient).
  • Jalapeños (great for adding heat to cornbread but not the right sort of spice for this dish).
  • Chives (I grow herbs at home, HAVE I MENTIONED THAT YET??? so I was tempted, but I’ve snipped chives over my past few dishes and won with exactly none of them, so…)
  • Slivered almonds (would have spun Zach into a 200-word diatribe that most certainly included the phrase “Steve you really Steve’d the Steve on this Steve!”).

Here’s what I actually had in my soup and cornbread. (It would have been cool if I took photos of the ingredients that were in the soup and then the ingredients in the Madeline muffin. It would have also been cool if I wasn’t doing this at 2 am. Sorry to all visual-spatial learners.)

Steve Bramucci

And also…

[PICTURE OF CORN AND VEGGIES]

Hmm… the next ingredient image isn’t transferring to my computer. You’ve seen corn before. And celery, carrots, roasted garlic, and onions. You’ll be fine without it.

The Cornbread Madeline

  • One cup of fine cornmeal flour.
  • One cup of white flour.
  • 3 ears of uncooked corn, cut away from the cob.
  • 1/6 cup brown sugar.
  • 2 cups buttermilk.
  • 1/2 cup browned butter.
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten.
  • 1 teaspoon salt.
  • 3.5 teaspoons baking powder.
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract.
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract.
Steve Bramucci

I am adding this terrible photo for two reasons: 1) so that you see the fresh corn in my blender rather than crying foul, 2) so that you can see that my fingers are beautifully manicured and — therefore — my cooking is inherently trustworthy. (“Good chefs take care of their hands” is a maxim that Padma Lakshmi shared on one of our previous cooking battles… I cut the comment back then and will not divulge who she spoke of.)

After seeing this SNL sketch, I decided to do no whole kernel corn for this meal. Plus I got a really fancy blender this year — HUROM’s slightly more affordable answer to the Vitamix — and the thing has an engine like a lawnmower, so I decided to put it to use and add textural contrast later.

Steve Bramucci

Into the oven at 400. These only take about 15 minutes to be done. The almond extract and vanilla draw the sweetness from the corn. The sugar is almost negligible. The browned butter adds a nuttiness that I adore.

The Beer-Corn-Cheese Chowder

Steve Bramucci

I started this with the actual holy trinity — celery, carrots, onions — cooked down in bacon drippings. My chop was extremely rough because it was all going into the blender later.

Here’s what else was in my soup. I gave you specifics on the muffins but that was baking. This is cooking — all measurements not specified are “to taste.”

  • Three Cali-Lagers.
  • Five ears of uncooked corn, shaved from the cob.
  • 1 huge piece of aged-white cheddar. I told the cheesemonger, “I want those aged-cheese flavor crystals to be so big that I cut my fucking tongue.”
  • 1 slightly less huge piece of Old Amsterdam aged gouda.
  • 1 similarly sized piece of aged gruyére.
  • 1 smaller piece of parmesan.
  • Three cups turkey bone broth — made with turkey necks, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme plus the holy trinity.
  • 1 cup heavy cream.
  • A half handful of pre-roasted garlic cloves.
  • Paprika.
  • Salt.
  • Red pepper flakes.
  • Dash of MSG.
  • The cooked veggies above, setting aside some of the celery because it felt like the ratio was off.

That’s your soup. I let it reduce for awhile before blending it and putting it back on the flame to reduce further. I didn’t add the cream until the end and only used it until the texture was silky enough, without overpowering the beer, corn, and cheese.

Steve Bramucci

I have another pic of my blender if you want it. Or bacon in the pan. But I think the final pic says it all.

Here’s what I finished the dish with:

  • Two slices of chanterelle, cooked in browned butter.
  • One piece of bacon.
  • Fresh thyme.
  • Cracked pepper.

This soup balances the malt-hop combo of a lager with a whole ton of aged cheese and all that sweet, grassy corn. It’s not a queso, as Vince is warming up to say, and wouldn’t have been better without the cheese, as Zach is tempted to write. It is, quite simply my personal favorite soup on earth. Is it a side dish? I think so. But I was raised on diner food in the PNW with waitresses always asking, “What do you want on the side, soup or salad?” Also, it doesn’t have a protein besides the bacon and there’s no way that something this cheesy gets kicked off the Thanksgiving table. I’ll leave it to Zach and Vince to argue out the semantics (does the fact that it requires its own dishware disqualify me? What say you, Toups?)

Steve Bramucci

Vince on Steve’s Dish:

Well, Steve, this isn’t at all a side dish, but it’s certainly corny. And cheesy! Too bad this wasn’t an “incorporate your dominant personality traits into a dish” challenge. Nothing says “Thanksgiving” like the sunny SoCal sepia-toned 70s, I always say. Did you happen to see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood recently? It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, I too love a good corn chowder and this looks like a solid version of it. Most of your usual preciousness actually works for you here, or it would have if this had been a soup challenge. Unfortunately, you made corn chowder for Thanksgiving. I enjoy the idea of trying to squeeze giant restaurant-style soup bowls onto a crowded Thanksgiving table though. Maybe I can just have the soup in front of me and make my grandma hold a turkey leg in front of my face to take occasional bites of? While I regale her with comments about the delicious grassy (??) corn? Mmm, you can really appreciate the malt/hops combo! I’d sputter.

I dunno, man, good dish, but your idea of Thanksgiving sounds more like a group of barefoot hippies with dirty feet enjoying some soup.

Zach on Steve’s Dish:

DUDE, you made a course not a side dish! Your plate has its own side dish, man…

How am I supposed to plate this up next to my turkey, anything-but-Vince’s stuffing, and piles of potatoes au-gratin??? I want to go the full Padma on you and say, “This is nice, Steve. But, you didn’t make a side dish so I can’t judge this dish. Shame too, it looks delicious.”

Am I supposed to use this corn chowder/cheese soup instead of gravy? Do I put the turkey in the chowder? Does the turkey go in the chowder, Steve?!?!

And what is it with you white boys putting so much wheat flour and sugar in your cornbreads? Corn is already sweet… At least you had the decency to call yours a Corn Madeline Muffin… So there’s that.

I fully appreciate your being upfront about pandering and adding unnecessary ingredients. That shit is refreshing! Also, your photo game is on point, seriously well done. I want this chowder/cheese soup in my life and it 100 percent feels like a Thanksgiving treat. Still, it’s a full course with its own side dish and not a side dish. Disqualified, yo.

Isaac on Steve’s Dish:

This is definitely a tongue and cheek one ‘cause when I hear about a weird soup with a corn island it takes me back to Top Chef when I got thrown under a bus for a similar dish. So, yeah, I’m here to throw this one under the bus right where it belongs.

Okay, first of all, who has soup for Thanksgiving? I honestly can’t remember the last Thanksgiving I went to and had soup. Also, beer, corn, cheese, chowder? That sounds like a frat initiation. It’s like, “HA! Take this cheddar into a butt cheek, drink this beer, and eat this ‘chowder.’” And everyone’s done something with the chowder, you know…

I know he took a picture with his sunglasses with it, but you’re gonna need thicker sunglasses, Jack. Are you trying to look pretty? And are those some fucking microgreens on there too? You know you can skip those.

I do appreciate all the things in it at least. Beer, corn, cheese with some chanterelles … this actually is, of all the dishes, the one I’d want to try and then move on to the real, actual food.

In summation:

I would say, Corn Island one. And, then, weird-ass cornbread dressing second. Then, the Nasaump last because of the sweet and savory at the same time.

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