Apologies in advance to anyone who happens to visit our house while a pot of chowder is on the stove. You are inevitably going to be
tortured treated with a word for word rendition from the Chowda v. Chou-dair scene from The Simpsons. Hey– when you go through college watching four episodes of The Simpsons every day, it can’t be helped.
Sometimes we sicken ourselves with the constant, giddy re-enactments, but when the CSA delivers fresh corn, leeks, and potatoes, well, chowder immediately comes to mind as the best way to use all those ingredients. It’s well worth the risk of being ear poisoned with “Chou-dair? Chowda!” So I set out to make a corn chowder, but rather than make the overly sweet, thick and creamy kind that’s more akin to a bowl of creamed corn, I wanted to try making a lighter, spicier version.
I started by crisping pieces of bacon in the bottom of a soup pot. After removing the bacon, I sautéed corn, diced Anaheim peppers, chopped leeks, minced garlic, and fresh from the cob, yellow corn kernels in the rendered fat. After the vegetables sweated a bit, I tossed in a couple of diced russet potatoes and poured in homemade chicken stock. The starches from the corn and the potatoes were all the thickeners I needed for this soup– no cream necessary. After a quick puree with my immersion blender, this soup was then set into bowls and garnished with the crispy bacon and a sprinkle of paprika. Brightly colored, slightly spicy with hints of sweetness, and just a little bit of smoky flavor from the bacon, this was a warm and comforting chowda/chou-dair, but not at all heavy in texture.
Notes: Since fresh corn on the cob isn’t likely to be so tasty during these winter months, you can try substituting frozen corn– probably about 2-2.5 cups worth. If you really prefer to use corn kernels, try adding a couple teaspoons of sugar to liven up the natural sugars in the corn and restore it to summertime sweetness. (See the December issue of Cooks Illustrated for that tip.)
- 3 ears of corn, husked and kernels removed from cob
- 4 pieces thick cut bacon, diced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 medium leeks, trimmed and dark green sides discarded
- 2 Anaheim peppers (or alternatively 2 jalapenos), diced (and seeded if you’re a wuss)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1.5 teaspoons)
- 2 small russet potatoes, diced
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or about 1.5 teaspoons dried thyme)
- 1 bay leaf
- 6-8 cups chicken stock
- salt and pepper
Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and reduce heat to medium low.
While bacon cooks, take the light green to white ends of the leeks and split in half lengthwise. Chop crosswise into 1/8 inch thick half-moon slices. Add the leeks to a large bowl of water and swirl around to dislodge dirt. Remove the leeks with a strainer and discard the water.
Add the leeks, peppers, and garlic to the bacon fat and saute for 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Add the corn and continue to cook, raising the heat back to medium, for another 6-7 minutes, being careful to not let the vegetables brown. Add the diced potatoes, thyme, bay leaf and 6 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low, keeping the soup at a simmer for 25-30 minutes. Remove the thyme stems and the bay leaf then puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in no more than 2 cup batches at a time in a regular blender, holding down the lid with a kitchen towel.) Add more chicken stock to thin out the soup to a consistency of your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with reserved bacon and a sprinkle of paprika.
CSA Count: 4
Corn, Anaheim peppers, russet potatoes, leeks
Garden Count: 2
Thyme, bay leaf