Sunday, August 1, 2010

Smoked Corn Chowder

We are having a very strange summer in Durham, NC. For days at a time the temperature hovers at or around 100 degrees with heat indices over 110, and then a cold front comes through and it feels like we are back in northern Michigan. This weekend has been gloriously overcast, cool and rainy, which is a rare treat in the dog days of summer.
So with such beautiful cool weather, its no wonder we started craving a comforting bowl of home made soup. This corn chowder is just the ticket. Originally, the recipe came from the legendary Silver Palate cookbooks from Julie Russo and Sheila Lukins. But I have been making this soup for decades and as a result it has evolved. I love it because it is extremely flavorful and comes together in under an hour (outside of smoking the corn).

You don't have to smoke the corn, but it really enhances the flavor of the bacon, and we are always looking for an excuse to break out the smoker. Also the addition of honey to the broth adds a hint of sweetness that greatly enhances the natural sweetness of the corn. I personally like the simplicity of this soup, but you can add roast chicken for an even heartier version. Serve this soup with a good loaf of bread slathered with butter and a simple green salad for a quick and satisfying dinner.Special thanks to Doug for executing the soup perfectly, he was sous chef, chef, dishwasher AND fabulous hand model for the photos! Who says it's hard to get good help these days?

Smoked Corn Chowder
(serves 6-8)

8 ears of fresh sweet corn, smoked over mesquite, kernels cut from the cob (about 4 cups)
6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped to a medium-small dice
2 stalks celery finely diced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
4  tsp kosher salt
3 medium russett potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp honey
1 large red bell pepper, cut into medium dice
6 green onions, green and white parts chopped
3 Tbsp minced fresh Parsley or cilantro
freshly ground black pepper

Grated sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese (optional garnish)

Smoke corn on the cob according to smoker directions (about one hour).  Cool corn and cut from cob.  (alternatively non-smoked corn fresh or frozen can be used, about 4 cups).

In a large heavy soup pot, fry the bacon pieces over medium high heat until they are browned and most of the fat has rendered, but bacon is not completely crisp. Add chopped onions and and celery and saute over medium high heat until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add butter and allow to melt. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Cook flour mixture for 3 minutes. Add thyme, cayenne pepper, stock and diced potatoes and salt. Stir mixture to dissolve roux into the stock, bring soup just to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low, cover pot and cook until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Add cream, honey, corn and red pepper. Stir to mix, then cover and cool over medium heat for 1o minutes. Just before serving add chopped green onion and minced herbs. Adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with grated cheese if desired.

Variations: If you like the soup a little spicier, I sometimes add a single, seeded, finely chopped jalapeno pepper with the onions. For a heartier soup add some chopped roast chicken.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds wonderful, but we are going to wait until, say, October.