Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the segway from summer into fall...

Sweet summer corn is a seasonal luxury that should never be taken for granted.  My friend Craig recently requested a recipe for corn chowder and I had to get on it before the season ends.  Thankfully the past few days have been chilly and gloomy, the perfect weather for a comforting bowl of chowda.

Before I begin I feel obligated to let you know that if you are accustomed to the "chowders" served at most average restaurants you are going to be disappointed. I don't load my chowder with roux and heavy cream, I allow the natural starches from the corn and new potatoes to do the dirty work for me.  For a luxurious touch I added a touch of heavy cream at the very end, but that is completely optional and highly unnecessary.  With that said, let's get cookin :o)

4 large ears of Sweet Corn, kernels cut from the cob & two kernel-less cobs reserved & quartered. Keep 1/4 Cup of kernels handy, and hold the rest of them, covered, in the fridge.
2 ounces [about a 4 inch long piece] cured, Spanish Chorizo, diced. [You can substitute bacon, but the spice from the chorizo compliments the sweetness of the corn beautifully. The smoke & salt of the bacon will steal the spot light from the star of the show- the corn.]
2 small Leeks, white part only; cleaned and thinly sliced
1 small Carrot, finely chopped or grated
2 ribs of Celery [if you have giant celery, use one], finely chopped
1.25 lbs New Potatoes [Red Bliss or New potatoes. A starchy Russett, peeled is fine], medium dice
2 Bay Leaves
4-5 sprigs of fresh Thyme
7 Cups hot Water
1/4 Cup of Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt & Cracked Black Pepper, as needed

Now, before we start, lets briefly review the leek:
They resemble giant scallions, but are a sweeter, subtle member of the onion family. This recipe calls for the whites only, but you can reserve the dark green leaves for making stocks. It is not uncommon for there to be dirt or grit in the leeks, so always cut them in half and take a look.  These weren't too bad, so I just ran them under water, peeling back the layer to rinse out the dirt, if your leek is very sooty, cut in half [lengthwise], leaving the root intact, and soak- cut side down in a large bowl of water. The dirt will sink to the bottom.

Let's get the chowder started, shall we?

1. In a medium-large stock pot, begin to render the chorizo over medium heat.
2. Once the chorizo is crispy use a slotted spoon to remove the chorizo pieces from the pot [being careful to keep all of that flavorful fat in there!] and reserve for later. Add the leeks, bay leaves and thyme, along with a pinch of salt, to the pot; saute.
3. Once the leeks are softened, add the celery and carrot. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then pour in 7 Cups of hot water, the diced potatoes, 1/4 Cup kernels and quartered cobs. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
4. Simmer for about 1.5 hours, and then taste. It will be bland because you  haven't seasoned yet, but you should be able to taste the flavors.  If the broth is aromatic and mildy flavorful, and your taters are very, very soft, remove the cobs, bay leaves, and any thyme twigs and season to taste with salt & pepper.
5.  Using an immersion blender, or carefully transfer to a standard blender, puree your soup. Now, you can either be very French about it and pass the pureed soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove any tiny pieces of potato skin or corn fiber, or you can trust me that you will be fine; after all, this is a chowda, not a bisque!
6. Return the soup to the pot and keep it hot over medium-low, add the reserved kernels, 1/4 Cup of cream and a pinch of salt. Simmer for a couple of minutes and serve with the reserved crispy chorizo.

 The lighting isn't doing the chowder justice; we haven't had sunlight in days!

This recipe will yield 4 entree sized portions or 6 small servings.

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