Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Basic Corn Chowder

You know it's late summer when you've had sweet corn with 9/10 of your past meals. If you're anything like me, you wind up with leftover ears, either cooked or raw, that you weren't able to get to before you started on the next batch. This phenomenon coincides nicely with the arrival of cooler weather--all together this means it's the perfect time for corn chowder.

This recipe is pretty basic, but feel free to spice it up with curry or red pepper chunks or anything else you can imagine. I made it with 4 ears of corn, but anywhere from 3-6 would probably work. I don't like mine too creamy, but if you like it that way then just add more dairy.

3-6 ears of corn, raw or cooked
3 strips bacon or a hunk of salt pork, diced
1 onion, diced finely
2-3 ribs celery, diced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2-4 potatoes, cubed (~1.5 c.)
1-2 qts. chicken broth
1/4 c. vermouth or dry sherry
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
lots of black pepper
Tabasco or chipotle sauce (optional)
1/2 - 1 c. half and half, cream, or evaporated milk
3 Tbsp. butter

Heat up a heavy dutch oven and cook the bacon or salt pork until the fat renders from it and it begins to crisp. Add the onions, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and cook over medium-high heat until it begins to brown. Add the celery and cook until it is tender and the onions are mostly caramelized.

Cut the kernels from the ears of corn into a bowl and then scrape the rest of the pulp into the bowl using the back of your knife. Break up the corn bits into individual kernels.

Pour the broth into the pot and add water so that you have 3 qts of liquid. Scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the corn, potatoes, herbs, some black pepper, and sherry and reduce the pot to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

Remove the soup from the heat and partially blend the soup so that it is mostly smooth, with some potato and corn chunks remaining. Slowly stir in the cream until it is how you like it. Add the butter to enrich it and then adjust the seasonings with more black pepper and tabasco sauce (if desired). Don't bring it back to a boil or the cream will curdle.

I served the soup with crusty bread, roasted chicken, and garden-fresh green beans--a winning combination!

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