Smoky, Spicy Sweet Corn Chowder

A few weeks ago, I shared this wonderful-sounding recipe for sweet corn chowder, created by Cheryl Paff at At the Farmer’s Market, on the Facebook page. I’ve made it a couple of times since then and not only to clear out the freezer in preparation for the impending harvest season.

This chowder comes together easily, without an excessive amount of chopping or prep, making it a good choice for an easy weeknight dinner. With potatoes and corn, it is very filling and satisfying, yet somehow not heavy: the sweet corn, cooked on the cob, with kernels stripped and frozen at the height of their August glory, is so light and bright and summery that it gives me faith that one day this winter will end. Really. The chipotle and smoked paprika add a lovely, spicy, smoky counterpoint to the brightness of the corn; I finished it all off with some summer-preserved cilantro in olive oil, but I imagine that Cheryl’s crumbled bacon garnish is just as tasty. Best of all, despite my recent addiction to all things non-local, this soup is made from about 99% local ingredients, the only exception being the spices.

Speaking of bacon, the bacon grease and chicken stock give this soup a richness that is wonderful, but there is so much flavor in the corn, potato, and spice combination that I’m confident a vegetarian or vegan version can be just as delightful. Flavorful corn and a good quality stock are a must, however. I can never find chipotle en adobo (I guess I’m going to have to make my own) so I rely on dried chipotles or ground powder; if you have chipotle en adobo, feel free to follow Cheryl’s original recipe and omit the ground chipotle and paprika. Regardless of how you choose to make it, this chowder is a bright, sunny note in an otherwise endlessly grey winter. Enjoy!

Adapted from Sweet Corn Chowder with Bacon & MapleS yrup by Cheryl Paff at At the Farmer’s Market

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Smoky, Spicy Sweet Corn Chowder

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp bacon grease (from about 2 thick-sliced pieces of bacon)
  • 1 large (8 oz) yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground chipotle powder (or 1 tablespoon chipotle en adobo)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced (I used Russet)
  • 4 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 lb corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tbsp corn meal or corn flour (masa harina)
  • 4 tbsp filtered water
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • cilantro, crumbled bacon or chipotle en adobo for garnish

METHODS

  1. Heat bacon grease over medium flame in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or soup pot. Sauté onions until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chipotle and paprika; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add potatoes and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add corn. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes. Blend about half of the soup and return to pot, or use an immersion blender.
  3. In a small bowl, combine water, cream and corn meal or flour; whisk together to form a slurry and stir into soup. Add maple syrup, stir well and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes. Leave lid off of pot if you want to thicken chowder; otherwise, simmer covered.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and additional chipotle and paprika as desired. Serve hot garnished with cilantro, crumbled bacon or additional chipotle.

Serves 6.

OPTIONS

  1. As mentioned above, I think a vegetarian or vegan version would be quite tasty. Flavorful stock is a must, however; I’ve made this with commercial stock (Better Than Bouillon) and it wasn’t nearly as good as the version made with my homemade chicken stock. Use vegetable stock and replace bacon grease with butter or olive oil; for a vegan version, omit cream in the corn meal slurry, or replace with soy or rice milk.
  2. The maple syrup is really key; such a small amount but it makes a huge difference. Don’t be tempted to skip it.
  3. I really liked this garnished with cilantro; I took a frozen cilantro cube from last summer, thawed and mixed with a bit of olive oil, then dolloped that on the soup. The brightness of cilantro alongside sweet corn just screamed summer. Which is a wonderful thing just now.
  4. I like this chowder really thick and not so creamy. Cheryl’s original version had a lot more milk and cream, which, if you like creamy soups, I’m sure is delicious. If you like a really thick, but creamy, chowder, I recommend following her recipe but cutting the stock amount down to 2 cups.

STORE

Refrigerated for up to 1 week; frozen for up to 3 months.

SEASON

Fresh corn is in season in late summer in the Northeast; this chowder can be made year-round with frozen corn.

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