Sunday, October 2, 2011

Corny Corn Chowder

Chowder. For several years I was responsible for regulating the judging of the Chowder Cook-Off at the South Norwalk Harbor Splash! Festival. In order to do that, we had to define what made a chowder a chowder. After much research, and interviewing chefs from around the country, we determined that to be a chowder, the soup had to be thick and chunky and had to contain potatoes (less chunky and no potatoes, you are really creating a bisque). Other than that, it can contain milk, cream, or any kind of broth as its liquid, and its main ingredient can be anything that is good in chunky form with potatoes.
Corn chowder can be very boring. It's often hard to get flavor from the corn. Here are two of my recipes. The first, made with just six ingredients, requires fresh, seasonal corn. This is a chowder to be enjoyed in the late summer or early autumn (I made it just last night). The second one can use frozen or canned corn, as its flavor is enhanced with bacon, herbs, garlic, and onion- and it uses dairy as part of the liquid. It is a great soup to have on a chilly winter day.
If you find yourself with too much corn from your CSA, husk the corn, boil it for 3 minutes, cool and freeze in plastic bags. When you want to make chowder, defrost it, and then cut the kernels off the cob. It won't be quite as good as fresh, but better than commercial frozen corn.

Corny Corn Chowder
This is the corniest corn chowder ever! No dairy (really!) and just six main ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).This is not just chowder with corn in it- by grating the corn and including the liquid you really get the essence of the corn. Pair it with a salad and crusty bread, or a sandwich. This recipe can easily be cut in half if you don’t have this much fresh corn.
8 ears of corn
3 Tablespoons oil
1 onion
3 Tablespoons flour
2 to 3 large baking potatoes
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)

  1. Put a box grater in a large bowl. Grate 5 of the ears of corn right down to the cob, catching all the liquid that comes from the corn. Cut the kernels off the remaining ears of corn and add to the bowl.
  2. Peel the onion and potatoes and cut them into medium dice.
  3. Heat the oil in the bottom of a large heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat just until it begins to change color and soften. Add the potatoes and flour and cook, stirring, for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the corn and ‘corn milk’ and stir. 
  4. Simmer 10 minutes and then add the broth. Cook, simmering, until the chowder thickens slightly and the potatoes are tender, about twenty more minutes.
  5. Optional: garnish with chopped parsley or chives.
Corn Chowder
This is a good winter chowder, with lots of flavor not just from the corn, but from bacon, garlic, and herbs. 
8 ears of corn (or 16 ounces frozen corn, or 2 cans niblet corn)
1/2 pound thick bacon 
3 large yellow onions 
1 large clove garlic
1 bay leaf 
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 large baking potatoes
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk 
1 cup heavy cream 
Freshly ground black pepper 
1 bunch scallions

1. Husk the corn and cut the kernels off the cob. Set aside. Cut the bacon into small pieces. Peel and chop the onions and potatoes into medium dice. Mince the garlic and the thyme.
2. In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until lightly brown. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. 
3. Add the garlic bay leaf, thyme, potatoes and corn kernels. 
4. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Add the milk and cream, and simmer for 5 minutes, making sure the soup does not boil. Slice the scallions.
6. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
7. Ladle into soup bowls garnish each serving with the green onions.