The time following Labor Day is a transitional time. Hot, sunny days continue well into September, but the quiet satisfaction of cozying up in a sweater on a cool evening reminds us that it’s time for quieter pleasures. The transition from summer to fall is also one of our favorite times to cook because the farmer’s markets are still packed with produce like late-season tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, and the renewed structure of our fall routines makes it easier to carve out time to make meals at home.
One of our favorite ways to culinarily navigate this period of time is by making a batch of corn chowder. The sweet, faintly grassy flavor of the corn is guided in a hearty direction by bacon, potatoes, and cream. The golden bowl is finished with chives, and one would be remiss to serve the chowder without a hunk of good bread sop up every last bit.
- 3 medium ears fresh yellow or bicolor corn, husked
- 6 ounces thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/3-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion (7 to 8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 large red bell pepper (6 to 8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 teaspoon)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 pound Yukon Gold or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or thinly sliced green onions for garnish
Carefully remove most of the silk from the corn by hand, then rub ears with a towel to finish the job. Cut kernels from cobs and place kernels in a bowl. You should have about 2 cups. Using back of your knife, scrape down cobs and add the milky substance that oozes out to corn kernels.
Heat a 3- to 4- quart heavy pot over low heat and add bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase heat to medium and cook until bacon is crisp. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot. To pot, add butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin, and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, about 8 minutes, until onion and pepper are tender but not browned.
Add corn kernels, potatoes and stock, turn up heat, cover and boil vigorously about 10 minutes. Some potatoes will have broken up, but most should retain their shape. Use back of the spoon to smash a bit of corn and potatoes against the side of the pot. Reduce heat to medium and season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat and stir in cream. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
If serving chowder within the hour, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing flavors to meld. If you are not serving chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate. Cover chowder after it has chilled completely. When ready to serve, reheat chowder oer low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with chopped chives. Makes 6 first-course servings.