Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tastiest Corn Chowder Ever

Come August, corn in Ontario is in its sweet, sweet prime. Check your local farmer's market or road-side stand for the freshest stuff. Although you don't usually think of hot soup in August, depending where you are in the province the  heat is usually starting to wane and you'd be surprised how delightfully welcoming this dish can be. I made this for our cottage group (10 of us) and it went over well for the hungry boys looking for something hearty, and the girls looking to get a bit warmed up.

Ingredients (makes soup for about 8-10 people):
  • 12 ears of corn, husked and corn kernels cut off the cobs. Run the back of your knife over the naked cobs to get all the milk out of them - it helps thicken the soup a bit
  • 5-6 large potatoes, diced into 1/4" cubes
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups milk or cream (I used a combination of 2% milk and 18% cream - it's up to you how creamy you like your soup but I prefer mine fairly thick ... using all 10% cream is a good alternative)
  • 1 tub of MacLaren's Imperial sharp cheese (this one - you can get it at the grocery store)
  • 1 cup grated old cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced (optional - I used it because I had one lying around)
  • 1/2 pack of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  1. Place a large stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and onion. Saute the onion until just softened (do not brown it), about 5-7 minutes. Add the potato and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring once in a while so it doesn't stick. Add the corn and cook about another 5 minutes, until it starts to brighten in colour. If you used the bell pepper, add it now, too.
  2. Add the cumin, cayenne, chicken stock and milk/cream and at this point you can turn up the heat to medium-high. Now, I didn't mention this but I don't always take exact measurements when I'm coming up with a recipe. Sooooo ... your potatoes and corn should be just covered in liquid. If they're not, add some milk/cream/stock ... whatever. It's not an exact science, OK?
  3. Heat it up to barely a bubble, and don't let it come to a boil or the milk will separate. Also, the heavier the cream (i.e. the more fat), the less likely it is to separate ... so if you're concerned with your ability to monitor it, use heavier cream. Cook until the potatoes are tender - probably 10-15 more minutes.
  4. Crumble the MacLaren's cheese and add it to the mixture, stirring to melt and incorporate. Once that cheese has fully incorporated, add the grated cheese, also stirring until fully incorporated. Season with a generous amount of salt (remember this is a big pot) and pepper. Taste it. A little flat? Add more salt. Not cheesy enough for you? Add more. Like it spicier? Add more cayenne or red pepper flakes. This is the time to customize it for you. ALSO: if you find the soup is too runny (I did, but I like my chowder a bit thick), you can make a roux in a separate pot and incorporate it into the soup to thicken it. Probably 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons butter will be enough. Make sure to slowly incorporate some of the liquid from the soup into the roux to make a bit of a creamy sauce before you incorporate it into the soup - otherwise it'll just be a clump in your soup.
  5. Once the corn and potato are fully cooked, and you have the consistency and flavour that's right for you, serve it up hot and top with crumbled bacon. Enjoy!!

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