Earlier in the summer, just as the super sweet Silver Queen corn was hitting the farmers’ markets, I visited one of my favorite farming families (a completely adorable elderly couple, the Snyder’s, who are still farming well into their 80’s, spry and gentle and delightful — amazing … I have a desk job and I go home exhausted every night) and scooped up as many ears as would fit in my bag.
I spent that afternoon husking and desilking (sooo not my favorite task, plucking that maddening silk from between the kernels), and preparing corn for freezing (read on for the super easy method I love). It’s not enough to last the winter, but I know I’ll get several batches of delicious, savory-sweet corn chowder from the deal.
For the longest time, I wasn’t a fan of corn chowder. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t corn chowder itself, but rather a general food aversion thing against canned vegetables (corn, peas, lima beans and succotash, to be specific).
Canned creamed corn — good Lord, just kill me now. (BTW, did you know that creamed corn actually contains no dairy? The “cream” is achieved by cutting only the tops of the corn kernels from the cob, and then scraping the cob hard to free the remaining corn bits and milky juices.)
Barring local corn (fresh or what I’ve preserved), I have a fondness for Green Giant Niblets in butter sauce, in all its processed glory. I’ve been afraid to research this particular product, lest I discover that the niblets are not actually corn but puppy teeth, and the butter sauce is coagulated high fructose corn syrup.
BTW, if you’re lucky enough to still have access to fresh corn-on-the-cob, try grilling it for this recipe — it adds an outstanding savoriness, especially if you get the smoky wood chips going. Substitute the grilled corn (removed from the cob) one-to-one for the amount of corn below.
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 generous servings
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
2 slices of bacon, turkey bacon, or vegetarian bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 large onion, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups canned vegetable stock
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
4 ears corn, husked and cleaned (about 4 cups, if substituting frozen)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Gruyere cheese, grated (use white sharp cheddar if you prefer)
Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon, onion, celery, and bell pepper and saute, stirring frequently, until the bacon is cooked (but not crispy) and the vegetables are soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno pepper and thyme leaves. Continue cooking until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Dust the vegetable mix with flour and stir to coat everything well.
Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a good bubbly simmer on medium-high. Add potatoes and cook until they break apart easily with a fork, about 8-10 minutes.
Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and add to the soup (if using frozen, add directly to soup without thawing). Season with salt and simmer until the corn is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Taste and add black pepper and more salt (if needed). Stir in the cheese and mix well with soup.
Just before serving, add a blurp of olive oil and ladle into bowls.