Take me to the country, where farms and fields hug the highways and roadside stands sell 14 EARS OF SWEET CORN for $4 total, and I am powerless to resist it all.
It won’t matter that I have no idea what to do with the corn, for example. It won’t matter that I am one person and 14 ears of corn are, well, an awfully large amount of corn for one person. I will take them, hug them in a green plastic bag, set them in the back seat while we go antiquing in a sleepy town named Sandwich and to a little diner that sells chicken fries and mini hamburgers. And I’ll keep telling you things like, This is fresh sweet corn! The kind where I can look at the field it grew in! Straight from the farm! And you’ll know I am a happy girl.
Of course, the next day, there’s the inevitable resulting questions of What was I thinking to buy so much corn? What am I going to do with it all? So, as I like to do with such dilemmas, I turned to Twitter. The really nice people out there gave me suggestions for corn salsa and corn pudding and boiled corn topped with butter and red pepper, and it all sounded so good that, in minutes, I was thinking not that I had too much corn but not enough.
The recipe I used, originally from SimplyRecipes.com, demonstrates everything that is good about corn chowder: packed with the sweetness of the corn and carrots, creaminess from the butter and milk, big bites of soft potato and hints of thyme and onion. It uses every bit of the corn, including the cobs, which you break in half and put in the pot while the whole thing cooks.
I made it in my new Le Creuset, as you might have guessed, and it was all So. Easy. Seriously. It’s hard to go back to canned soup when there are such foolproof, amazing, I-will-lick-my-bowl-clean-every-time recipes like these (yes, I’m looking at you, carrot soup and cream of spinach soup and Julia Child’s potage parmentier).
I do realize, in case you’re wondering, that it’s August right now, the month of heat waves and humidity and the anniversary of a sweltering day in 1982 when my mom endured 19 hours of labor bringing me into this world. You may think it’s not the right time for soup.
However, respectfully? I disagree. And so does my empty bowl.
From where I sit in the luxury of this air-conditioned kitchen, hot soup is mighty fine, just as hearty and comforting and coat-your-stomach good as it is in late fall, which, I can hardly believe, is coming very soon.
And if, for some reason, you find yourself with bags of corn to use—well, first of all, I want to be friends with you, so please tell me about it, but second: stay tuned.
There are more corn recipes to come, as well as the recap of the party (!) I have been promising all week, in time, I promise. Meanwhile, have some of this, and think of me.
Adapted from Simply Recipes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (Alternately, you could substitute one tablespoon of the butter for a strip of bacon or a teaspoon of bacon fat)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 large carrot, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 celery stalk, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups), cobs reserved
1 teaspoon chopped bay leaves
3 1/2 cups milk, whole or low fat
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, or Russet, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Begin by preparing the corn: Remove the husks and silk (and as much of those little stringy pieces as possible!). Then, I liked to stand one cob at a time in a bowl (helps keep the kernels from flying all over the room), using a serrated knife to cut off the kernels. After doing this once, I’d lay the cob, cut-side down, on a cutting board to cut off the rest. (Remember to save the cobs!)
Next, in a large saucepan (I used my new 4.5-quart Le Creuset), melt the butter over medium heat. (If using bacon, you’d add it here, frying until it renders its fat but hasn’t browned, Elyse says for about 3 to 4 minutes.) Then you’ll add the onion and cook it for about five minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for another five minutes or so.
Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan, and add the milk and bay leaf. Bring this mixture to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Check to make sure the heat is as low as possible (my stove has a “simmer” setting just before the superhot one) so that the milk doesn’t scald.
After 30 minutes, take out the cobs and any large chunks of bay leaves (also take out the bacon strip, if applicable). Raise the heat and add the potatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt and some pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain this temperature for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Raise the heat again, and add the corn kernels and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Serves 4. (Or one very hungry me, about two times.)