Friday, April 9, 2010

Simple Corn Chowder

Even though the warmer days and higher sun have us thinking of fresh produce again, around here, the sweet corn crops are still just a glint in their farmer’s eye. They won’t be knee-high until the Fourth of July, and it’s hard to remember those days way back in July and August when the harvested ears were stacked up like cordwood. Luckily, when I had more corn from our CSA than I could use fresh, I liberated a few pounds of it from the cobs and froze it.

Since it could be at least a month and a half before I can get my hands on some locally grown vegetables and fruits, that frozen corn is just the thing to tide me over. It still tastes like summer and the simple chowder I made with it, along with potatoes, frozen shelled edamame (soy beans) and green onions, was sweet and delicious and, well, corny.

The original recipe, which was in Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine, called for a can of creamed corn. Ugh! I never touch the stuff, and even if I didn’t have all that great corn in the freezer, I would have found a way to avoid using it in this, or any other recipe. The idea was to make the soup creamy, which I usually do by pureeing some or all of the soup, as I did in this recipe and this recipe. I wanted to do things a little differently this time and keep the potatoes chunky, so I reserved half the corn I was intending to use in the soup and pureed it with half and half. Although you don’t need much half and half to make a nice creamy soup using this method, if you want to make it even lighter, you could probably use milk, or if you want it to be even richer, you could use heavy cream.

In my opinion, the flavor of bacon is essential in this recipe, and the taste of the bacon renderings (ie, smoky, salty melted pork fat) added some delicious complexity to an otherwise quite simple soup. I like to use a thick-cut bacon, so if you’re using a thinner cut, you might want to add another piece or two to the recipe. (I also ended up cooking extra bacon for garnishing the leftover soup.) If you wanted to leave out the bacon, however, you could sauté the green onions in butter, and I’ll try not to judge you. (If you prefer a vegetarian soup, use a flavorful vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth as well.)

I kept the rest of the flavors fairly simple, although I think some fresh herbs would have been nice. Unfortunately, the container herb garden I usually plant on my porch is also just a glint in my eye right now, although that glint is getting a bit impatient for a consistently warm growing season! Until then, I guess I’ll just keep raiding the freezer.

Corn Chowder with Edamame
adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Magazine

If you like bacon, you might want to fry some more for extra garnish.

2 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 bunch green onions (scallions), white and pale green parts separated from the dark green part, all finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ pound potato, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen shelled edamame (soy beans0
4 cups frozen corn (or fresh), divided
¼ cup half and half

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.

2. Add the white and pale green parts of the green onions to the hot bacon fat. Saute 2 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

3. Add the salt, pepper, potato and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

4. Add 2 cups corn and edamame. Cook 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, place the remaining 2 cups corn and the half and half in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Process until the corn is well-ground, but still has some texture. Add the blended corn mixture to the pot and cook for a few more minutes, or until heated through. Serve garnished with cooked bacon pieces and the dark green tops of the green onions.

Makes 4-5 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon; Cream of Carrot and Parsnip Soup; Celeriac, Potato and Wild Rice Soup

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