Saturday, March 1, 2008

"Smoky" Corn Chowder

I love corn chowder.

Well, maybe not as much as I love lasagna or garlic soup, but if I'm out and there's corn chowder on the menu, I have to have it. There are a number of places around the library that have corn chowder on the menu and I probably seek it out almost every week or two. Until I moved to New England 4 1/2 years ago I didn't even really like corn. Then I discovered how sweet fresh corn is and how much fun it is the shuck your own, and suddenly I was hooked.

My friend Cougar (or Hungry Cougar as she wants to call herself on the blog) also loves corn chowder, probably more so than me. Also, she was responsible for getting me a subscription to Real Simple Magazine, and of course my first issue had corn chowder on the cover.

Since all the chowder stars seemed to be alligning, I invited H.C. over after work last week to watch a really bad movie, knit, and eat Smoky Corn Chowder. And it rocked!


8 ounces sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 10-ounce packages frozen corn
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup half-and-half
Kosher salt and pepper
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced


1. Cook the bacon in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

2. Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings and return the pot to medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, and red pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the corn, broth, and half-and-half and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Transfer half the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pot, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and stir to combine.

4. Divide the soup among individual bowls and top with the scallions and reserved bacon.

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings

CALORIES 359(58% from fat); FAT 23g (sat 9g); SUGAR 20g; PROTEIN 10g; CHOLESTEROL 41mg; SODIUM 597mg; FIBER 6g; CARBOHYDRATE 32g

Cook's notes:

1. I was smart and made it the day before, partially because I wanted it to be ready when we came home from work, but also to let the flavors blend longer. It's a good thing I made it without an audience, otherwise I would have embarassed myself. You want to know why it's called "Smoky Corn Chowder?" It's because if you're anything like me, the house will fill with smoke while you're cooking the bacon and you'll have to rush around and open every window (even though it's 20 degrees out) to let out the smoke before the fire alarm goes off in the building and all your neighbors hate you. I like bacon a lot, but I hate cooking it, mostly for this reason. It could also be that my problem is that I like my bacon extra crispy. Next time I'll either buy precooked bacon or the microwave kind to avoid the drama.

2. I did not add scallions at the end. I was too lazy.

3. The soup works best if you have an immersion blender. Just be careful that you don't puree everything, otherwise you'll have to add in more froze corn at the end like I did.

4. My package of bacon was 12 ounces (low sodium) and I think the extra 4 ounces made a difference. I loved the bacon bits! Also, I added the bacon after cooking and let it blend in with the chowder overnight, and I think the flavor was enhanced.

I recommend serving the chowder with a large salad (Cesar) and fresh French Bread. It doesn't seem like much, but the chowder is very filling.

I will say the chowder was a success. Next time I'll make a double batch and freeze it, though this batch gave me 3 meals plus one for a guest. I think it'll taste even better with fresh corn come late summer, so don't be surprised if it shows up again (or if you're over and I serve it to you). This is one of the best meals I've made so far this year!

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