Chowder Chowtime

Along with some fresh okra, several heirloom melons and a sack of the cutest red potatoes ever, this week’s CSA share included not four, not six, but TWELVE ears of corn! What in the world does one do with twelve ears of corn? Feel a little corny? Toot your own corn? Become a corn-again Christian? OK, this is obnoxious. I’ll stop.

This late summer crop is hugely popular year round; and if your timing is right, you can buy some of the sweetest, most tender corn this time of year. (Foodie edit: While I could insert a somber, weighty rant here about the state of the American corn industry a la Food, Inc., I think it would be a big ol’ wet blanket on an otherwise fun column. So, I’ve decided to keep it light and fluffy and continue on, ignoring the giant, pink, genetically-altered corncob in the room. I’m talking fresh, local corn, good food and fun times here, folks. Relax. Grab a drink. Enjoy the show. XOXO, your Foodie.)

CSA Corn

For those who don’t have farm-fresh corn delivered to them bi-weekly (whee!), there are a few rules to abide by in buying good corn this time of year. One, check the cut ends of the ears; they should look like they were just cut from the stalk, not shriveled or dry. Two, the ears should be tightly wrapped in their husks – and if possible, avoid buying partially husked corn, the kind that’s had its tops lopped off and been wrapped in plastic; this tends to dry out the kernels. Three, the ears should feel heavy for their size and have husks that are green and fresh, the kernels should feel plump and tight, and the silk should appear shiny and golden. Capice? Capice. Moving on!

Soup’s Veggie Base

Corn chowder is a staple late summer dish – fresh corn right off the cob in a creamy, flavorful broth, often enhanced by bacon and onion. Delish, right? Well, me being me, I made a few tweaks and adjustments to my favorite corn chowder recipe – this one is from Tyler Florence (Oh, come on – I hear that collective sigh. I know many think Ty-Ty is a blathering, over-styled donut hole who doesn’t know his ass from a deep fryer, but I think he’s a great cook. Please behave.)

My first tweak was to grill the corn before cutting it off the cob. Grilling corn is a simple task -one so simple you can even do it while multitasking, like folding laundry, icing a cake or chugging a beer bong – as long as you keep an eye on it and rotate it regularly. I also added carrots and celery to my soup base to add more flavor, texture and color to the otherwise monochromatic soup. Another addition was the white wine before the stock, to add depth. Florence calls for peeled russet potatoes in his recipe; I switched this to red potatoes with the skins on. I like the less-starchy red potato better, and I like the texture of the potato peel – it makes me feel like I’m adding a few more nutrients. (I know the nutrient thing is a stretch; just let me keep thinking that.)

Grilled Corn

The two cups (!!!) of heavy cream gave the consistency a luxurious feel, the grilled corn added a subtle smoky flavor and the essence of the wine lingered with just the right intensity. We topped our soup with chopped garden tomatoes and scallions, but feel free to play around: add bacon, sour cream, or a light drizzle of olive oil – as I always say, the possibilities are endless! Play around, have fun, and savor the summer while you can. Enjoy!

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Grilled Corn Chowder

Download this recipe

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 large celery stalk, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
3 red potatoes, diced
6 ears corn, shucked, rinsed and grilled
Salt and pepper to taste

Light a grill and grill the corn until the kernels begin to crackle and turn brown, rotating the cobs regularly. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Before Blending

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a minute longer. Add the flour and stir to coat everything well, cooking for about a minute, until the flour begins to brown. Add the wine and simmer a minute longer. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the cream and the potatoes, bring to a boil, and boil for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes begin to break down.

Cut the grilled corn kernels off the cob and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and simmer about 10 to 12 minutes longer. With an immersion blender, or working in batches with a food processor, blend about half of the soup until smoother but still chunky, or until the desired consistency is reached. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with your choice of toppings.

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Laura Hobbs is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her author page or visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.