It’s officially fall, which makes me want to make soup. And for me the perfect shoulder-season soup is spicy corn chowder. Making it allows me to cook the piles of fresh corn I just can’t seem to stop buying as well as utilize part of the bushel of roasted green chiles I bought with visions of capturing the grand prize at my school’s fall festival chilli cook-off (which I didn’t end up entering — long story — so these will be added to almost everything I make or eat for the next several months).
Unlike most corn chowder recipes, this soup doesn’t call for cream or creamed corn or sugar. It’s relatively light and fresh tasting while also being plenty rich and satisfying. You can take the extra step of scraping the corn pulp into a bowl and squeezing it to obtain about 1/2 cup of corn juice to use to finish the soup, although I’ve tried it both ways and honestly couldn’t tell the difference. I know everyone doesn’t have access to Colorado’s locally grown Sweet Olathe corn, but I’m sure you can get something equally delicious at your local farmer’s market this time of year.
And just a little kernel for thought (sorry, couldn’t resist the, ahem, corny play on words): If you want to avoid genetically modified corn, which I think you might when you read studies like this one, then you’ll need to buy organic ears.
My kids loved this by the way! (No carrots, no celery, bacon and potatoes, need I say more?)
8 ears of corn
2 tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 slices bacon, cut into small strips
Leaves stripped from about 6 thyme sprigs (just pinch with your fingers and pull down the stem)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 pound small red potatoes, cut in half or quartered depending on their size
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
Salt & pepper
6 cups water
2 roasted green chiles (peeled and diced) or one 4 oz. can of diced Hatch green chiles, optional
Peel the husks and silk from the corn. Using a sharp knife (I like a bread knife for this actually), cut the kernels from the corn. You will have a large pile of corn. If you want to extract every last drop of flavor from the corn, use a butter knife to scrape the pulp off the (now kernel-less) cobs into a fine strainer. Let sit over a bowl so corn juice drips into bowl (you can also squeeze gently with the back of a spoon). Set aside.
In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, bacon, and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Stir in flour and cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly.
Add milk to chowder and season to taste with more salt & pepper. Stir in green chiles if using (I suggest tasting them first to test for hotness; my experience is that these freshly roasted chiles vary widely and some are just too hot). Add reserved corn juice just before serving — and a healthy grind of pepper.