We have had one clear winner though: a corn soup. A chowder, I suppose. Asked to make it twice in a week is a winner in my book....especially considering I have tried and failed to master a corn based soup worth keeping for well over a year. Something always seems to fall short with corn soup for me - be it lack of flavor or too much. Finally though, we seem to have found a winner.
What did it take to find success? A little heat, and a few key complimentary vegetables to round out the flavor. Well, and I suppose bacon/pork, but I think it could do without just fine (though I'm not sure my husband would be as big a fan).
One of the funny little treats we have as the crops begin to grow and the promise of open air markets looms, is cleaning out last year's finds and treasures from the freezer. I was pretty thrilled to discover a heaping full bag of the sweetest corn I've ever tasted waiting in the freezer. Adding in some of our CSA ham and tomatoes from our garden set my wheels to spinning. A quick pantry scan yielded onions, garlic, a potato and a jar of roasted red peppers. A few more additions and we ended up with a tasty corn soup that was as filling as it was flavorful.
You could make this with easily grocery fare - canned stewed tomatoes, fresh or frozen corn, or roast your own peppers if you like. If you happen to have frozen tomatoes though, this is a great application. If you'll recall I freeze mine whole, peel and all. When it comes time to use them I let them defrost a bit on the counter or in a bath of lukewarm water. As they defrost the skin will peel right off. A couple seconds of popping off peels and a quick dice and you have un-stewed tomatoes.
Regardless, I think you'll enjoy the sweet-spicy mix and hearty meal this simple soup makes. My dear friend showed up the day after I made this and the leftovers became a point of contention - a battled upon find in the fridge, though I think I was the one most devastated when my husband polished off a final hearty serving.
Spicy-Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Chowder
1 thick slice country ham, cubed
OR 1/2 lb bacon cut into 1/2 inch slices
OR 1 large ham hock*
1 medium onion, diced
1 large baking potato, diced/cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 lbs (2 x 16 oz bags) frozen corn (still frozen) (you can use fresh as well)
1 x 14oz can stewed tomatoes with water/juice
OR 1.5 lbs frozen tomatoes, peel, chop and save the juices
1 cup stock of choice (ham stock is prefered but you can use vegetable or chicken)
1 jar roasted red peppers, diced
1/2 cup water + 1 large chipotle pepper in adobo, pulverized**
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp fresh chopped chives
2 tbsp adobo seasoning (start with 1 tbsp)***
1 cup cream (you can use a fuller-fat milk as well)
* For ham hock add at step 5 and cook until fall apart tender, take out of soup, shred and add meat back into soup.
** Using an immersion blender or food processor add chipotle and water together and pulverize until thoroughly incorporated/chopped. Usually the chipotle in adobo is in the south american foods section of a grocery.
*** Adobo seasoning can be heavy on the salt so if you are on a salt-restricted diet or don't prefer salty flavors you might be better off making your own or using a low-salt version. If you can't find adobo at your store you can easily make your own as well.
- Heat a deep, thick bottomed pot on medium heat. Add country ham and brown slightly on all sides, set aside. If using bacon: cook thoroughly until crispy or nearly so, set aside and leave rendered fat in pan.
- Add onions to rendered fat and sauté until transparent. If you are not using meat or have no rendered fat simply use a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add cubed potato and cook on reduced heat with onions for 5 minutes, stiring often. Add oil if needed.
- Increase heat back to medium and add garlic - stir for 15-20 seconds.
- Add remainder of ingredients (including reserved ham/bacon) EXCEPT cream, bring to a boil. Reduce to an active simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are appropriately tender - depending on your potato you may need more time.
- Add cream, 1/4 cup at a time until a consistency/creaminess you prefer. Taste and add more adobo for flavor if needed.