Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Fresh Corn Chowder

Sometimes a vegetable just speaks to me.  It tells me what it wants to be.  This corn was so fresh the kernels looked as if they were going to burst.  It just screamed corn chowder to me.  Seriously, it must have screamed because I would never even think of making soup in the summer with the exception of something cold like gazpacho.  Corn is one of those vegetables that I only buy in the summer.  Its silk has to look fresh, shiny and yellow.  Corn is best when it is eaten within hours of being picked.  Since I have no control over how long the corn takes to  get to my market,  the rule of my kitchen is to cook the corn the day it come into the house.  I usually serve corn on the cob when I BBQ or maybe in a clam bake.  This corn deserved to be center stage, hence my decision to make a hot soup in the summer.  I figure to have a truly fresh corn chowder, you have to make it when the corn is at its best.  So that's exactly what I did and it did not disappoint.
This corn chowder is a slight adaptation of a recipe that appeared in Fine Cooking Magazine.  If you are not familiar with Fine Cooking,  I highly recommend it.  It is filled with beautiful photographs, fantastic recipes, and articles about different ingredients and cooking techniques.  Best of all it contains very little advertising.    In my opinion, the original recipe lacked a little zing.  The jalepeno in the original recipe just didn't add enough depth and spice.   I put the zing in the chowder with addition of some chipotle pepper in adobo.  Of course then it needed to be topped with a little cheese.  I also suggest using a good applewood or cob smoked bacon for the garnish.

Summer Corn Chowder
Click for Printable Page
Slightly Adapted From Fine Cooking 87,  pp. 55
September 2007
Serves 4
  • 5 ears of corn
  • 2 bunches scallions (about 12- 16)
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces*
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 quart homemade chicken stock*
  • 1 large potato peeled and diced small (I used russet)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • grated cheddar cheese for garnish
  1. Remove husk and silk from corn.  Cut off corn kernels and discard all but 2 of the cobs.
  2. Wash and trim scallions.  Slice into 1/4" rounds.  Separate the dark green slices and reserve.  The white and light green slices will be cooked in the soup.
  3. In a heavy 4 quart saucepan or pot cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  4. Pour off bacon fat, but do not clean out pan.  
  5. Add butter to the pan and melt.  Add the light green and white parts of the scallions to the pan and saute for 3 minutes until they begin to soften. 
  6. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to the scallions.
  7. Add the chopped chipotle pepper, corn kernels, diced potato and thyme.  Combine over heat for one minute.  Pour in 1 quart chicken stock.  Stir and add the 2 reserved corn cobs to the pot. (they will add flavor) Bring pot to a boil over medium high heat. 
  8. Once soup comes to a boil, reduce and simmer for 20 minutes over medium low heat or until potatoes are tender.
  9. When potatoes are tender, remove cobs and discard.  
  10. Remove 2 cups of soup and vegetables from the pot and puree in a blender or with a hand-held blender.  
  11. Return puree to the soup pot and stir in the half and half, a handful of the green scallion tops (save a few for garnish) and some chopped cilantro.  Heat for another 3-5  minutes until flavors blend and soup is hot.
  12. Correct the seasoning and serve.  Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, bacon and scallion or a sprig of thyme.
* For a vegetarian option substitute vegetable or potato peel broth and omit the bacon.

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