We found ourselves up to our ears (pun only slightly intended) in fresh, sweet Jersey corn after a weekend trip to tube down the Delaware River. After we ate as many cobs as we could manage for dinner, there were still quite a few left over. I wanted to use them up as quickly as I could in a way that honored their juicy, pure taste of sunshine. This simple chowder was just the thing. You could leave out the bacon to make it vegetarian, of course, but I love it for it's crunch and touch of smokiness. Also, I think the tiny bit of miso adds a lovely sweet, savory buttery element that plays beautifully with the corn. —Pia S
ears of corn, the freshest you can find
slices thick cut bacon (or the equivalent slab bacon), diced large (optional)
cloves garlic, minced
leek, well cleaned, green top removed and tender white part sliced
rib celery, finely diced
poblano (you want a spicy one here - can substitute a rehydrated chipotle, ancho, or other similarly sweet and spicy pepper)
sumac powder (optional)
yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (I like large cubes)
Shuck corn. Strip kernels from cob (ideally over a bowl so you can catch the juices), trying to get as close to the cob as possible. Put kernels in a bowl and set aside. Reserve cobs.
Add corn cobs to 4 cups of water in a large pot, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add bay leaf, a pinch of salt, and cover. Let simmer at least 30 minutes.
Roast Poblano (if using). I char it on all sides directly over the flame of my stove. Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Peel off charred skin (do not rinse pepper), remove seeds and dice.
If using bacon, saute bacon in a skillet until browned and crispy. Remove bacon from skillet to a paper towel and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat. (If not using bacon, at this stage add 2 tbsp olive oil to a skillet and heat). Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tbsp of butter, then add onions, garlic, leeks and a pinch of salt. Turn heat to low and saute - you want the vegetables to get soft but not brown. Cover if necessary to hasten the process. After about 10 minutes, add celery and poblano (or other chile pepper). Continue to saute until vegetables are very soft and translucent (this takes me about 30 minutes).
When onion mixture is ready, add to the simmering corn stock pot. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes and then fish out corn cobs and discard. Add potatoes, thyme, sumac, a pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper. Simmer until potatoes are tender (not mushy), about 20-30 minutes.
Ladle out half a cup or so of hot broth and use it to dissolve the miso paste. Mix back in with the soup.
Add milk, cream, remaining 1 tbsp butter, corn, pimenton and cayenne. Taste and adjust seasoning. Simmer another 5-10 minutes, until soup has thickened slightly and corn is tender. Grate in Parmesan cheese (I started with about a 1/4 cup of cheese). Turn off heat, taste again and adjust.
Portion soup in bowls. Top with bacon, scallions, and more grated cheese if desired.