Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lighter Corn Chowder

When corn is on sale for 6 ears for only $1, I did what any self respecting person would do - buy way more ears of corn than any normal human being could ever eat.

Which is why I was so thankful that in the August 2011 issue of Cook's Illustrated there was a recipe for Corn Chowder, and a lighter version at that.  My waistline and running legs thank you.  It still starts with absolutely delicious bacon though.  Mmmm bacon.

The recipe overall is very easy - the hardest part was scraping the pulp off of the ears of corn, as I kept smacking my knife into the side of the bowl.  The next hardest part was not slicing too deep into the corn kernels, so that some pulp would remain on the cob!  If you've never sliced corn directly off of the cob before, just beware - it's a very dirty job, as the corn kernels tend to fly ALL over the place.  The best trick I've learned - cut the corn in half, so there's a flat end.  Invert a smaller bowl inside a larger bowl.  Place the corn on top of the smaller bowl, and slice down - the corn will fly directly into the larger bowl, and it's the only way to keep your sanity.

Fresh corn is essential - do not use canned, although I'd wonder how it'd taste in the winter with canned corn and using the "corn water" as a pulp juice replacement.  It probably won't have that great corn flavor though.

I loved the corn flavor of this recipe, the tons of corn, the bacon, and the use of half and half.  It's a great chowder, but not too heavy for the summer.

Eat all that beautiful summer corn!  Cook this chowder!

Do not be alarmed if, before adding the half and half, your soup is very brownish.  That's normal.  I think.

Lighter Corn Chowder from Cooks Illustrated, August 2011
Serves 6 (I halved this recipe)

  • 8 ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 slices of bacon, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (I used dried.)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 cups water
  • 3/4 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Sugar (if your corn isn't very sweet)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1.  Cut kernels from corn and set aside (you should have five to sic cups of kernels.) 

2.  Holding cobs over second bowl, use back of a butter knife to firmly scrape any remaining pulp on cobs into bowls, resulting in about two to two and a half cups of pulp.  Transfer pulp to center of a kitchen towel and squeeze tightly until dry.  Discard pulp in towel and set corn juice aside (you should have about 2/3 cup of juice.)

3.  Melt butter in a Dutch oven (or nice sturdy pot, like I used) over medium heat.  Add onion, bacon, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and edges are beginning to brown, for 8-10 minutes.  

4.  Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

5.  Whisking constantly, gradually add water and bring to a boil.

6.  Add corn kernels and potatoes, return to a simmer.

7.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook until potatoes have softened, 15-18 minutes.

8.  Process 2 cups chowder in blender until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Return puree to chowder.  Add half and half and return to simmer.

9.  Remove pot from heat and stir in reserved corn juice.

10.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and up to 1 tablespoon sugar.  Serve, sprinkling with basil.

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