With only a few weeks left until the unofficial end of summer, I am in a strange place with my food cravings. I still want to take advantage of the summer bounty at the farmers market, but I’m starting to crave the rich warm soups of late fall and winter. The best way to bridge this gap is with a delicious summer chowder, and in the Chesapeake Bay area, nothing screams summer more than fresh corn and blue crabs.
This recipe is actually my second attempt at corn chowder. The first version of this corn chowder wasn’t as creamy as I had hoped and the pureed corn created a gritty texture that wasn’t really appetizing. I did learn from this first batch of soup. First, corn stock is necessary for a good corn chowder and is really easy to make. Second, pureeing the mirepoix into the soup is great for flavor, but don’t puree all of the corn because you need the corn kernels whole for the crunch and pop of flavor in the soup. Finally, bacon grease makes everything better. Originally, I used butter and olive oil to sauté the veggies, but I had just finished making breakfast when I started the second batch so I used some of the leftover bacon fat in place of the butter.
The second batch of corn chowder turned out amazing – the kind of dish that makes you really proud of your skills in the kitchen. It is rich, creamy, and comforting. I managed to freeze half of it so I will have a taste of summer in early November, that is if I can leave it in the freezer long enough.
Corn and Crab Chowder
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon fat
2 medium shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1 small green pepper
1 med-large red pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups corn stock (see below)
1.5 cup vegetable stock
3 teaspoons fresh thyme
3-4 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
salt & pepper, to taste
4 cups corn kernels, ½ cup set aside
4-5 medium waxy potatoes, cut into ½-in dice
1 pint heavy cream
8 oz backfin crab meat
chopped parsley (optional)
grated Parmesan (optional)
1) Begin by prepping your shallots, garlic, red & green pepper for the mirepoix. You will be pureeing this later, so the dice does not need to be exact, just close enough in size for the vegetables to cook evenly.
2) Melt bacon grease into olive oil over medium heat a large pot. Increase heat to medium-high and add shallots, garlic, and diced peppers into the pot. Sauté for 5 to 8 minutes until veggies are fragrant and soft.
3) Add flour to sauteed vegetables and stir to coat. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Slowly add the corn stock and vegetable broth, whisking as you pour it into the pot to avoid clumps. Add 1/2 a cup of corn kernals and bring pot to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until corn is tender.
4) Using a stick blender or a traditional blender, puree soup in small batches until smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot.
5) Stir in potatoes, corn kernels, thyme, Old Bay Seasoning, and salt & pepper. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a medium-low simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
6) Stir in heavy cream and crab meat. Recover and cook on the lowest setting for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors develop.
7) Serve hot garnished with fresh parsley and/or Parmesan and warm bread or crackers on the side.
5-6 ears of corn
4 cups of water
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the corn kernels from the cob and set aside the kernels. Break the cobs in half and place in large pot or dutch oven. Add water to cover the cob pieces. Cut leek in half length-wise and add to the pot. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or until liquid has reduced by ½ a cup to a whole cup. You should have about 3 cups of corn stock when complete.