When I’m not gorging myself on summer tomatoes, I turn to the sweet delight of barely cooked corn on the cob. I have two methods of making fresh corn, neither original but both foolproof:
1) Put stockpot about 2/3 full of heavily salted water on stove, or, as we do, on an outdoor camp stove in the heat of summer. Turn heat on high, then add shucked corn. Cover. When water boils, corn is done.
2) Shuck outside layers of corn husks. When you’re down to the silk and one or two layers of thin, light husk, carefully remove as many of the silk strands as you can, leaving at least one layer of husk intact. Grill on whatever fire you’ve got going (if too hot, move to sides of grill), turning corn to get all sides. Remove husk before serving. The beauty of this method is that the corn won’t get charred and overcooked on the grill, just the husks will, but you’ll get a nice smokey taste.
Once the corn is stripped from the cob, the only difficulty you’ll have is deciding what to do with it. Freeze it for later? Eat it now as is, maybe pan roasted in a bit of brown butter? Make salsa? Make a creamy green chile-corn pudding or souffle? Fresh corn polenta? A corn panna cotta?
And wondering what to do with the husks? Me too. I’m planning to try uchepos, a fresh corn tamale that uses green husks as wrappers.
Everyone should buy enough early sweet corn to freeze for winter meals. If you cook it in one of the two manners above, you won’t need to parboil it before freezing. Remove the corn off the cob, place it in freezer safe containers, and freeze. I like to use our local ‘Bodacious’ hybrid, a bi-color sweet corn, for freezing.
As much as I love the combination of corn and cream, I find most corn chowders to be too thick and rich for my tastes in the heat of summer. I want the freshness of the corn to shine, enhanced by green vegetable notes like celery and poblano pepper, with just a touch of cream. I find that if you use fresh corn just stripped from the cob and corncob broth, you can get away with making a lighter version of chowder that has plenty of flavor from peppers and bacon. It’s also very pretty. The broth is thickened with a bit of natural potato starch and the milky inner part of the kernels.
I realized, too, that this chowder is a perfect use for your tiny, marble-sized garden potatoes that are hard to use elsewhere. Add as many as you have, then cut other waxy potatoes into pieces about the same size.
You may use either already cooked or raw corn for this recipe, but do use summer corn that you’ve removed from the cob yourself. Raw corn will make the chowder creamier and sweeter, but pre-cooking corn on the cob makes it easier to remove the kernels. I rely on frozen corn cob broth to eliminate a step, but you can make fresh broth as you’re preparing the other vegetables.
Fresh, Spicy, and Smokey Light Corn Chowder
Serves 4-6 as a light summer supper.
- 4 cups freshly shucked corn
- 3 cups corn cob broth
- 4-5 slices of thick-cut bacon
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 poblano peppers, roasted and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, roasted and chopped
- 6-8 scallions, charred and chopped
- 6-8 golfball-sized new potatoes, scrubbed and halved (substitute any waxy potato, cut into bite-sized pieces)
- a fresh bay leaf
- 1 t. fresh summer savory or oregano
- 1 cup 2% lowfat milk (or light cream or full fat milk, if you’re feeling decadent)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Defrost corn cob broth, if you are using frozen. Prepare your corn from corn on the cob (either pre-cooked or raw) by removing the kernels, making sure to scrape the inner part of the corn kernels from the cob with the back of a spoon.
If you are making fresh broth, reserve the cobs and prepare the broth, using the recipe linked above.
Prepare the vegetables. Roast peppers over an open flame or on your electric burner on high heat, turning until skin blackens and blisters. Set aside to cool in a brown paper bag or covered bowl. Wash and trim roots and bad bits off scallions, then char them by placing them whole on the burner, turning quickly, until about 25% blackened. Let scallions cool until easy to handle, then chop.
Dice onion and chop celery. Scrub and cut potatoes into halves or bite sized pieces.
When peppers are cool, de-seed and chop them.
Brown your bacon over medium heat in a dutch oven large enough for the soup. Remove and cool, leaving the fat in the pot. Add diced onion and celery to bacon fat and cook until translucent. Dice bacon and add back to pot. Add potatoes, corn, herbs, and salt and pepper.
Cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes, then add chopped peppers, charred chopped scallions, and milk. Turn down to a simmer. When potatoes are soft enough to yield easily to a knife slipped into their little bodies, adjust seasonings and serve.