This corn chowder lets the corn taste like the best possible version of itself. It’s rich but not too heavy, perfect for even the balmiest summer night.
By using fresh corn (rather than canned or frozen kernels), you can turn the sheared cobs into a homemade corn stock. This stock—compared to chicken or vegetable—allows us to double down on pure corn flavor. Adding a Parmesan rind boosts the stock’s umami and offers a nice touch of acidity. Similarly, smoked paprika brings wonderful savoriness.
Bacon plays a significant role here, as the rendered fat is used to sauté the onions, garlic, corn, and potatoes, while the bacon itself re-appears at the end as a garnish. Some traditional chowders use salt pork instead, but I prefer bacon because it’s easier to find at my local grocery store and, honestly, it’s a huge crowd-pleaser.
There are a few benefits to using heavy cream instead of half-and-half or milk: Because the chowder is naturally thick from the potatoes and homemade corn stock, it requires little thickening to begin with. Moreover, milk will generally curdle in a hot chowder unless it’s used in conjunction with a roux—and eliminating the roux saves time and effort, while also making this recipe gluten-free.
Once all the ingredients for this chowder have simmered together, half of the soup is blended until silky smooth, then returned to the pot. The final dish has a velvety texture, studded with small bites of corn and potatoes. Cheese and chicken are two ingredients commonly added to corn chowder, but we didn’t find them necessary.
To preserve summer’s flavors, you can always make the chowder, freeze it, and defrost it a couple months later when the weather gets cold. In that case, just make sure to omit the heavy cream before freezing, and add it after the soup has been defrosted. —Josh Cohen
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 2 hours
- Serves 3 to 4
corn ears, husked
bay leaves, fresh or dried
Parmesan rind (2 to 3 inches wide)
yellow onion, finely diced
garlic cloves, minced
Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (2 to 3 small potatoes)
Freshly ground black pepper
scallions, thinly sliced, green tops separated from the white bottoms
- Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the kernels off the corn, reserving the cobs. (I like to cut each ear of corn in half before trying to remove the kernels.) Set the corn kernels aside (you should have about 3 1/3 cups). Add the cobs to a large pot, along with the thyme, bay leaves, Parmesan rind, and smoked paprika. Add 6 cups of water to the pot and set it over high heat. When the water just begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer the corn stock for 1 hour. After an hour, strain the stock using a fine-mesh strainer, then set the corn stock aside. You can prep the corn stock up to 3 days ahead of time, making sure to store the stock and the corn kernels in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.
- Add the bacon to a large pot. Set the heat to medium-low and slowly crisp the bacon, turning it and flipping it every few minutes with tongs. After 10 to 15 minutes, the bacon should be crispy and fully rendered. Turn off the heat and remove the bacon from the pot, but leave the rendered bacon fat where it is—we’re about to cook with it. When the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble it into tiny pieces.
- Add the butter and onion to the pot and adjust the heat to medium. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to caramelize. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute, stirring regularly. Next, add the corn kernels and diced potatoes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly, until the corn begins to deepen in color. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper. Add the scallion bottoms along with the corn stock, and stir gently to combine. Turn the heat to high, and when the liquid just begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook at a gentle simmer for 35 minutes.
- After the soup has simmered for 35 minutes, the potatoes should be very tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Ladle half of the soup into a blender and blend on high until very smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot, along with the sliced green scallion tops. Stir to combine. Taste the soup, and adjust with more salt as necessary. To serve, garnish each serving with some crumbled bacon.