What I love most about this sweet corn chowder is its golden yellow hue and full sweet taste of fresh corn just off the cob.
It’s also perhaps the easiest method, as it involves pureeing the corn kernels with stock before the cooking begins. Thus, there’s no scalding, dripping soup to ladle into a processor. In addition, this method allows for both a puree of corn, corn kernels, and a variety of colorful, perfectly cooked diced vegetables, which enliven the whole effect.
I kept this soup vegetarian, but if you have leftover diced ham and want to use it, a cup or two would be a tasty addition. In this case, toss the ham in the butter before you add onions, and sauté for a minute or two. This helps bring out the flavor.
Sweet Corn & Poblano Chile Chowder
This is the quintessential corn chowder, bursting with fresh corn flavor and punctuated with colorful veggies and chiles. To my palate, the smidgen of spicy heat really enlivens the total effect.
Ingredient Note Although there are a fair number of chiles in this soup, the result is only a little spicy, as long as you remove both seeds and ribs from the chiles. If you want more heat, add ½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (cayenne pepper flakes) to the onions while they’re sautéing.
Ingredient Note Although you can use either fresh unroasted poblano chiles or roasted, skinned poblano chiles, my preference, when I can get them, is for roasted. Every fall at Portland Farmers Market, a chile roaster magically appears and I stock the freezer. Of course, you can also roast the chiles yourself, but it’s great to have this step already done.
Technique Note A sure way to ruin this soup is to overcook the potatoes, celery, and carrots. Okay, to be fair, the soup will not actually be ruined, meaning inedible, but it won’t be perfect either. To allow for cooling, refrigerating, and later reheating, always undercook the final addition of vegetables.
Technique Note The amount of flour specified here is just enough to produce a lightly thickened soup base, which is my maximum for this volume of soup. Overly thickened chowders are a blight on the soup world! Nevertheless, if you want a chowder with a little more body, you can add an additional 2 tablespoons of flour at Step 6.
Quantity Note This makes a large batch of soup, but it’s even better after a day or two mellowing in the fridge. Even with only 2 to 3 folks in the house, this bisque never lasts beyond day three.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups chopped yellow onion (1 pound chopped; about 1 large or 2 medium-size onions)
3 fresh jalapeno chiles, cored, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and ribbed (use rubber gloves!)
4 cloves garlic, peeled, and minced or pressed
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups fresh yellow corn kernels, cut from the cob, divided (you can use frozen in a pinch)
5 cups vegetable stock, divided (chicken stock also works well)
4 fresh (or roasted, skinned) poblano chiles, cored, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and ribbed, minced (use rubber gloves!)
4 cups, ½-inch cubed, new potatoes (20 ounces; red or gold)
1½ cup diced celery (about 3 large ribs)
1½ cup diced carrots (about 3 large carrots)
2 cups half and half
2 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
softened unsalted butter, optional
- In a large stovetop casserole or wide soup pot, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add onions, jalapeno chiles, and garlic to the casserole and cook until onions are softened but not browned, 10-15 minutes.
- While onions are cooking, add 4 cups corn kernels and 2 cups vegetable stock to a blender. Liquefy on high speed. If the mixture seizes and won’t move, stop the blender and scrape down the sides of the container. Add another 1 cup of vegetable stock. Continue blending until corn mixture is quite smooth. NOTE: If you use a Vitamix or other high-power blender, you’ll have a smooth purre. In which case, skip Step 3.
- OPTIONAL: This step isn’t absolutely necessary but does produce a velvety texture. Pour the corn mixture through a medium-fine sieve into a bowl. To extract all of the liquid, push against any solids remaining in the sieve. If you liquefy the corn long enough, you will have only about 1-2 tablespoons of solid particles remaining in the sieve. Discard these. Alternatively, just leave the corn puree in the blender until needed later in Step 7.
- Back to the onions. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for several minutes.
- Slowly add the remaining 2 cups vegetable stock, whisking constantly to keep flour lumps from forming. When the stock is fully incorporated and the soup base is free of lumps, add the corn puree and bring to a full simmer. Simmer slowly for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the casserole. Stir in the half and half.
- Add poblano chiles and potatoes, and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Add the diced celery and carrots and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables are almost cooked through but still very firm and crunchy. Add remaining 2 cups of fresh corn a minute or so before carrots and celery are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Remove the soup from the heat and transfer all that you won’t be eating immediately to a storage container, seal, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, heat only the amount of soup that you plan to use and simmer for 1-2 minutes to complete the cooking of the diced vegetables.
- To serve, ladle into bowls, grind pepper over the top and sprinkle on a little chopped parsley. If you want to gild the lily, float a teaspoon of softened butter on each serving.
Makes about 3½ quarts; serves 6-8.
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