When corn is in season, bursting with flavor and sweetness, corn chowder is one of my favorite meals. This soup is hearty enough for dinner and can be varied easily. I use whatever potatoes are available at the farmstands...fingerlings, new potatoes, or whatever looks best. You can leave the skin on as long as you are not using a variety with tough skins, such as russets. You can also vary the flavor a lot depending on what herbs you add at the end. Basil really accentuates the summery flavors for me, while cilantro gives a bit of a southwestern taste. Try adding red pepper or some chilies too, if so inspired. Like so many good summer recipes, this is one to adjust to your own liking, based on whatever is best at the local market.
This recipe serves a crowd but you can certainly cut it in half. I like to make a big recipe whether we have guests of not. It is always nice to know you have another meal ready to go, and it freezes well if you want to save it for longer than a couple days.
10 ears corn, husked
1/2 pound bacon
1 large onion, diced
8 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
6 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 quarts new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 8 cups)
10 cups stock or water
2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (if you use water you will need more salt)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs such as parsley, cilantro, or basil
Cut corn from cob and set aside. Before discarding cobs scrape them with the dull edge of a knife to remove even more corn pulp. You should have about 6 cups of corn and pulp when you are done.
Cook bacon in a large skillwt over medium high heat, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Pour a couple tablespoons of the bacon fat into a large pot and return pot to the burner. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent and carrots and celery are beginning to soften.
Add bay leaf, stock or water, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
Add corn, milk, salt and pepper and cook about 4 minutes more, until corn is tender. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until the liquid is thick but not pureed - there should still be plenty of visible potato chunks and corn kernels. If you do not have an immersion blender you can ladle a few cups of the soup into a blender, puree, and return to the pot.
Stir in fresh herbs and reserved bacon. Adjust seasoning if needed before serving.