I know it’s summer and I know it’s hot out. Still, I made soup. Because, y’all, sweet corn. And bacon. And bourbon. Yes, bourbon. It’s the new secret ingredient to making the best sweet corn chowder you’ll ever have. Honest to goodness. You don’t need much and it compliments the sweet corn, already at its peak, with just enough depth and smokiness to make the soup feel full-bodied without feeling heavy. After all, bourbon is just more corn, right?
The soup itself is simple to make, doesn’t take a terribly long time, and only requires one pot. Plus, it used a couple of fun techniques like simmering the soup with the corn cobs to help it thicken and puréeing, which gave me an excuse to use one of my all-time favorite kitchen tools, my immersion blender. I’m thinking it’ll freeze really well, too, so I went ahead and made a full batch and froze three portions. I know a month from now, when the school year is in full swing, the evenings are getting that first hint of fall crispness, and summer corn is long gone, I’ll be so glad I did.
Sweet Corn Chowder
from Williams-Sonoma, New American Cooking
4-5 large ears of corn, husks and silk removed
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 lb. red or white boiling potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 c. vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 TBSP fresh or 2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 c. milk, plus more as desired
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1-3 TBSP whiskey (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
1. Using a very sharp knife, cut the corn kernels from the cobs. You should have about 4 c. of corn kernels. Set the cobs aside.
2. In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp, 5-6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.
3. Add the onion to the bacon drippings and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the potatoes, stock, bay leaf, thyme, 2 c. of the corn kernels, and the cobs. Simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and corn cobs and, either with an immersion blender or working in batches in a traditional blender, purée the soup until smooth.
5. Reduce heat to low and stir in the remaining corn kernels and milk. Add in the bell pepper, whiskey (if using), salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. If desired, add more milk to reach your preferred consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.
6. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with reserved bacon and parsley.
Yield: 4 servings