Corn Chowder

Image of a bowl of corn chowder garnished with baconSummer In The City
One of the perks of living in the Bay Area is that come the summer months, we get some of the best sweet corn from Brentwood—which is right in our backyard. I wait all year for the arrival of fresh local corn and have a tendency to overdo it in the beginning so I need to pace myself.

There is another truth in the Bay Area. Although the calendar might say June or July, there are days when it feels more like November…in Michigan. Mark Twain nailed it. Summer in the city can mean some chilly and foggy days while at the other end of the bridge the locals are melting in one hundred-degree heat. That being said, there have been plenty of evenings when we have been enjoying a lovely time outdoors when “nature’s air-conditioning” rolls in and you go hypothermic.

What I am trying to say here is that it’s not unreasonable for something like a corn chowder to be the perfect answer for a summer dinner. It combines two very Bay Area things, local corn and chilly nights. Plus it tastes good. Pair it with a lovely green salad and a nice chilled white wine from Napa or Sonoma and you have the quintessential California dinner.

Corn Chowder Recipe
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 4 servings

Our simple Corn Chowder recipe combines pureed sweet corn, sautéed kernels for added crunch, and an infusion of bacon. (If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish, skip the bacon and use vegetable stock.)

2 tablespoons butter
4 scallions, white bulbs and green tops
1 red bell pepper
2 ribs celery
1 pound boiling potatoes (about 3)
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears)
4 thick slices lean smoked bacon, optional (4 ounces)
1 bay leaf
1 quart canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Prep the ingredients
Cut off the greens from the white part of the scallions. Chop and reserve both parts separately. Dice the red bell pepper and celery. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Remove the corn kernels from the ears.

Dice the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces

Cook the vegetables
In a large saucepan, melt 1-1/2 tablespoons of the butter over moderately low heat. Add scallion whites, bell pepper, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to soften (about 10 minutes). Set the vegetables aside in a bowl while cooking the bacon (if using).

Cook the bacon
Melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the saucepan. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Reserve 1/3 of the cooked bacon for topping.

Add the reserved vegetables to the bacon and stir in the potatoes, 2 cups corn, bay leaf, broth, and salt. Bring the chowder to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Process the corn and milk
In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining 2 cups of corn with milk.

Finish the chowder
Stir puree into the soup along with black pepper. Simmer until soup thickens slightly (about 5 to 10 minutes). Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the scallion greens.

Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of bacon.

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