It’s time for another look at corn chowder, courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen. The ingredients appear similar to Julia Child’s New England Corn Chowder, but the application is so different, the two chowders are not really alike at all, except in their sweet corn flavor. Oh, and the corn removal process that I’m convinced needs to be done in a special booth in your kitchen, like the painting booths car body repair shops set up to repaint cars. Really, there’s got to be a better way. (8/2014: Apparently, there is! Go watch this video from the Test Kitchen.)
- 8 ears corn, husks and silk removed (see note)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 4 slices bacon, halved lengthwise then cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 cups water
- 3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Note: I must have small ears of corn, because I ended up using 11 ears to get the 5 cups needed for the recipe. Buy extra.
I removed the kernels from the cobs with my chef’s knife, and then scraped the cobs with the back edge of a butter knife to remove all the pulp and milk into another bowl. Then I wrapped the pulp in a clean towel, and squeezed it within an inch of its life, to get all the corn juice out of it. The pulp was discarded, the juice set aside for later. The kitchen was hosed down, and the cooking began.
The butter is melted in a dutch oven over medium heat, then the onions, bacon, thyme, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper are added to the pot. They are cooked until soft and just beginning to brown and smell fantastic, then the flour is stirred in, and cooked for about 2 min, while stirring. The water is added a bit at a time, while the mixture is whisked to prevent lumps. Once it has come to a boil, the potatoes and corn kernels are added to the pot, and brought back up to a simmer again. The soup is allowed to cook over medium-low heat until the potatoes are soft, about 15 min.
2 cups of the soup are pureed in a blender until very smooth, and returned to the soup pot. The soup is removed from the heat, the corn juice is stirred in, and the seasonings checked. I added more salt, pepper, and about 1 tablespoon of sugar, because my corn wasn’t as sweet as I wanted. The soup is topped with chopped basil to serve.
This corn chowder tastes of corn just like Julia’s, but the use of bacon instead of salt pork gives it a more hearty flavor. Julia’s thickener was common cracker crumbs; here it’s flour. The crackers added body, but didn’t really absorb moisture and thicken the broth like the flour does here. The onions and dairy don’t play as prominent a role in this chowder, and water takes the place of the light chicken broth used in Julia’s chowder, resulting in a slightly thicker, very corny, satisfying corn chowder. The addition of basil at the end is really fresh and different.
The family has requested a side-by-side taste test, to be absolutely certain which chowder they like the best.
I’ll be putting up that corn-removal booth soon. See you on down the Road.