When I saw Summer Corn Chowder listed as one of the soups of the day at Panera I was intrigued. Oddly enough I ordered a different soup for lunch but the name stuck with me. What could be more summery about a corn chowder? Probably the use of corn straight from the cob? I did some research and found there is a very wide interpretation of what goes into a summery corn chowder!
Even bacon was a hit or miss ingredient in the soup. I felt it would overwhelm the corn flavors and didn’t want that to happen. I’m all for sticking bacon in various dishes (I put it in peanut brittle once!) but I wasn’t in the mood for it to steal the spotlight from my corn chowder. My SUMMER corn chowder. I was really into this idea by now.
I found a recipe that used two ears of grilled corn and a bag of frozen corn for the chowder. What interested me most was the way it used the cobs and made a corn broth. WHAT!?! I love, love, love to make my own chicken broth and beef broth and even vegetable broth. I’d never, ever thought to use the corn cobs! Oh my goodness I’ve been throwing them away for years and could have saved them in the freezer with the other vegetable discards I save for making veg broth! Unreal!
So we had grilled corn for dinner one night and I cut the kernels off of 2 ears of corn and used the 6 cobs to make broth. I snapped them in half and filled a soup pot with about 10″ of water to cover them well. I let the pot come to a boil then let it simmer at medium for 2-3 hours. I eventually had to add water as it had boiled pretty low. I ended up with about 6 cups of corn broth. I strained it and refrigerated it for later.
Then I rethought my plan. Why use frozen corn when I could use all fresh corn from the cob? A trip to the store for more corn and I was slicing kernels off 6 more cobs of corn. I was excited that I could make more corn broth and freeze it for another time. I’m really into this corn stock stuff!
By now I was making up my own recipe from bits and pieces of other recipes. I sautéed a cup of diced onion in the bottom of my soup pot with a drizzle of oil.
I shredded one large carrot and added it to the pot.
I added the 6 cups of corn stock and set the heat to medium high to come to a boil.
I scrubbed 3 potatoes and diced them into 1/2″ cubes. I left the skins on for the rustic look. A few of the recipes I’d looked at had left the skins on as an option. I put the potatoes into the soup and let it come to a boil again.
I added all of the corn, both the uncooked and the grilled corn, and some diced red bell pepper to my soup pot. I also added a teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. When the soup was bubbling I reduced the heat to medium and let it cook until the potatoes were beginning to soften, about 20 minutes.
I stirred 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar into the soup. It needed a little acid to combat the sweetness of the corn.
I stirred in 2 cups of half and half then made a slurry by mixing cornstarch with cold water.
I stirred the slurry into the soup and let the soup cook until it began to thicken. I wanted the soup to be gluten-free so I hadn’t used flour earlier.
I taste tested the soup for seasoning once more and added more salt to taste. The soup was ready for dinner. I served it with freshly grilled wild rice burgers on buns. We’re still crazy about those burgers and had stocked the freezer with a few dozen premade patties.
The soup complimented the wild rice burgers nicely. It was creamy and so very flavorful. I’d wondered if it would just be like a glorified creamed corned but it stood on its own as a well-rounded chowder. The corn was the star, with the carrots, peppers and potatoes in the background in lesser roles. I could eat this as a meal and not miss having meat. And I still think bacon would have overwhelmed the lovely fresh corn flavor.
Summer Corn Chowder
8 ears of fresh corn
1 cup onion; diced
drizzle of oil
1 large carrot; shredded
6 cups corn stock
3 large potatoes; diced 1/2″
1 sweet red bell pepper; small dice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
salt and pepper to taste
Cut kernels from corn cobs and set aside. Place cobs in soup pot and add 2 quarts of water. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours, adding water as necessary. You want 6 cups of corn broth. Strain and set aside.
In soup pot add onion and a drizzle of oil. Stir and cook until onion is translucent and beginning to brown around the edges.
Add corn broth and carrots to pot. Add potatoes and bring to a boil.
Add corn, peppers and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and simmer until potatoes are beginning to soften.
Stir in vinegar. Add half and half and heat until it just begins to boil. Stir in cornstarch slurry and stir until soup thickens. Taste test for seasoning and serve hot.