My parents just came into town and stayed with us a few days. I always look forward to these trips, as it is my only time I get to see my parents face to face. We talk on the phone throughout the year but it is always special to have them in my house. We always spend a decent percentage of our time just sitting and talking. Talking on the couch, in the back yard, on a park bench. We sit and tell each other stories about events that have happened over the year or plans for the next. Sometime we talk about problems and opinions. Once in awhile these conversations run a bit heated- but that doesn’t last long. We say our piece and then move on to the next topic.
Being Iowa natives, corn is a big deal. Corn is broken into two categories: Feed and Sweet. Feed corn is what is mostly grown and is the corn that is used in products and to feed livestock. Sweet corn is the type that is in the grocery store and consumed by us humans. The family farm is mostly feed corn but my uncle (Thanks Phil!) always plants some sweet corn too. This corn is a precious commodity among the family. Once the corn is harvested then my mom, grandma, and aunts get together and cook the corn, cut it off the cob and place it in quart size freezer bags to be frozen. Each family gets enough to last until the next year’s harvest.
With September here and fresh corn still available, I was in the mood for a comforting soup to usher in the cooler temperatures and bridge the gap between summer and fall. Corn chowder fit the bill. Creamy and satisfying, with just enough smoky flavor from the bacon to add a depth of flavor to the sweet corn.
I made this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated and followed it pretty exactly. Next time, I would skip the step of scraping the cobs for the “corn juice”. I found this tedious and messy, though it did add an extra layer of sweet corn flavor. I’ll add the instructions, in case you feel up to the task. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. Fresh corn is a must in this recipe since it is the dominant flavor. After removing the husks. Wash the corn thoroughly and remove as many silks as you can. Fresh corn kernels should be plump and not shriveled.
- 8 ears of corn, husked, trimmed, and rinsed thoroughly
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped in 1/4 inch squares
- 1teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 5 cups water
- 12 ounces yukon gold potatoes, halved and quartered
- 1 cup half and half
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped for garnish (optional)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
In a medium bowl, stand corn on its end and slice the kernels off the cob and into the bowl and set aside. If desired, in a small bowl, use the back of a butter knife to scrape the cobs of their pulp and then layer a few paper towels on the counter. Working quickly, spoon pulp onto paper towels and quickly wrap pulp in the towels and squeeze the juice into a small measuring cup. I had about 1/2 cup but Cook’s Illustrated said there would be about 3/4 cup of the juice.
Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add bacon, onion, thyme, measured salt and pepper and cook and stir until onion is soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Continue to whisk and add water. Make sure to thoroughly mix during this step so that you do not get lumps in the soup. Bring to a boil and then add potatoes and corn kernels. Return the mixture to a simmer and cook until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
Remove 2 cups of the chowder and blend in a blender until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes. Return blended corn mixture to the soup pot and mix (look how creamy it is now!) Add half and half and return pot to a simmer. Once simmering, take soup off the heat and mix in the corn juice (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, top with basil if using, and serve with a thick slice of crusty bread.