This chowder isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it is definitely a winner in the kitchen. The recipe comes from a little book called 50 Chowders by Jasper White, and it could be overlooked given that the book is full of the most wonderful sounding soups and chowders. It’s the kind of recipe that you run across that easily could have come from your mother. My mom never made corn chowder when I was growing up, but this is exactly the kind of thing we would have had when summer was sinking into fall.
This is the perfect time of year for this chowder. It combines the last of the summer corn with the warmth and comfort of a fall soup. If this dish were clothing it would be that light sweater you put on during late summer evenings when you can feel the cool air of fall creeping into the night. This chowder is simultaneously a farewell to summer and a welcome to autumn.
This chowder is sure to become one of those recipes that we make for years to come. It’s very flavorful and comforting. The spice is just right and the ratio of stock to cream lends to a rich chowder but not overly so. The chowder also keeps well overnight and makes for a perfect lunch the next day.
If you head to your farmers’ market this weekend and come home with the last few ears of summer corn, I hope you try this. Maybe it will become one of your favorites, too.
Excerpted from 50 Chowders by Jasper White
3 medium ears of fresh yellow or bicolor corn
4 oz bacon, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion (7 to 8 oz), cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 large red bell pepper (6 to 8 oz), cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 pound Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 cups chicken stock or broth
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or thinly sliced scallions
1. Husk the corn. Carefully remove most of the silk by hand and then rub the ears with a towel to finish the job. Cut the kernels from the cobs and place in a bowl. You should have about 2 cups. Using the back of your knife, scrape down the cobs and add the milkly substance that oozes out to the corn kernels.
2. Heat a 3 to 4 quart heavy pot over low heat and add the diced bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp and golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.
3. Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin, and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onion and pepper are tender but not browned.
4. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, and stock, turn up the heat, cover, and boil vigoursly for about 10 minutes. Some of the potatoes will have broken up, but most should retain their shape. Use the back of your spoon to smash a bit of the corn and potatoes against the side of the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and season the chowder with salt and pepper.
5. Stir the cornstarch mixture and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let is sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.
6. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat, don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the chopped chives.