This simple recipe is from the September issue of Saveur magazine, one of my favorite food magazines. Because it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, it’s one of those dishes where the quality of produce really makes a difference. In other words, this soup is all about the late summer sweet corn. Unfortunately, corn in the Mid Atlantic doesn’t compare to Midwestern sweet corn. If you’ve ever had it, the kernels are plump, juicy, and sweet as candy. I think it has something to do with the cooler temperatures helping the sugars in the plant develop? I hear that’s how it works with maple trees… Point being, corn here is not nearly as flavorful.
So, I tried my best with the recipe. I bought my corn, bacon, herbs, onions, and garlic at the Mt. Pleasant farmers’ market this weekend. While everything else was great, the corn was small and a little bland. I had to add some sugar and a fair bit of salt and pepper to punch it up. If you have great sweet corn at hand, omit the sugar. Otherwise, with a little doctoring, this makes some pretty tasty corn chowder.
Adapted from Saveur magazine
- 4 ears of fresh corn
- 4 strips of bacon, chopped
- 2 1/2 tbsp salted butter
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 rib of celery, chopped
- 1/2 a medium white onion, chopped
- 1 small bay leaf
- 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
- 3/4 lb of red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- kosher salt, sugar, and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp sliced fresh basil for garnish
1. Shuck corn, removing as much of the silk threads as possible. Working over a large bowl, slice corn kernels off the cob. Scrape the knife along the cob to remove all the juices. Reserve 3 of the cobs and slice in half. Set aside.
2. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat bacon over medium heat. Cook until crisp. Reserve 1.5 tbsp of bacon for garnish, leaving the rest in the pot. Add butter, dried basil, garlic, celery, onion, and bay leaf. Cover and cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add corn, cobs, milk, and potatoes. Cover and bring chowder to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Skim any foam from the surface of the soup with a slotted spoon. Discard cobs and bay leaf. Season with salt, sugar, and pepper.
4. Remove pot from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree soup to your desired consistency. (The original recipe calls for pureeing 3/4 cup in the blender. I got a little enthusiastic with the stick blender and ended up with a thicker chowder.) Serve with reserved bacon and basil sprinkled on top.
Makes 4 servings.