Corn Chowder – Vegetarian, with Bacon or Salt Pork
I’ve made this Corn Chowder three times since the beginning of the new year. It’s that good! I vary it a little each time. That’s the beauty of it. I can make it strictly vegetarian, which we did at our Soups, Stews & Bread class in January. When I make it at home, I start with either bacon or bacon fat or salt pork. I love the taste of bacon in soups!
I have salt pork, trimmed off a holiday ham in the freezer. A container of bacon drippings is always available in my refrigerator…this is the fat that has rendered or is left in the pan after cooking up some bacon for breakfast. Don’t throw it away. Have a container in the refrig that you can keep adding to. I like to use this for braising my brussels sprouts too. I know what you are thinking. Isn’t this against the diet police? Well I don’t eat it every week, but when you are making home-made food and using fresh ingredients, this is a little splurge that will add flavor, when you don’t want to add the actual bacon. You need to cook your onions in a fat, so use bacon fat if you dare.
I was lucky enough to find fresh corn grown in the USA in February at a Latina market. How is that possible, when most cities were under snow? If I were a betting gal, I would bet the ears – 3 for $1 came from Mexico. Nevertheless, I was happy to have them. They would make my Corn Chowder that I was bringing to the Food Bloggers of Los Angeles February Potluck that much better. Since winter is Soups & Stew season, I am most often using frozen white corn in this chowder. When I made this chowder for 100 at a Holy Nativity fundraiser, I decided that using frozen corn would be just fine and a lot less work…and everyone loved it.
I also like to add more flavor by roasting the bell peppers and pasilla chile on a grill, but if a grill is not available to you in the winter, you can do this on a gas flame or in the oven on a high 400 degree heat. Then remove the black charred skin and the seeds and dice them before adding to the chowder.
Once all the veggies are in the pot, bring to a boil then simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Cornstarch is an easy way to thicken a liquid. You simply mix it with a small amount of milk or water and it will thicken the liquid without the threat of lumps like flour can. Once the thickener is in the soup, add the remaining milk to create a chowder appearance. This is the final step before heating through and serving.
- 1 large red bell pepper, roasted
- 1 pasilla chile, roasted
- 1 1/2 pounds frozen corn or 4 medium ears fresh
- 4 ounces bacon, diced (optional)
- 2 Tb olive oil 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 pound red potatoes, cut in 1″ bite size pieces
- 3 cups stock – vegetable, chicken or lobster*
- 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 pinch salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 cup milk
- 1 pound shrimp (optional)
1. Roast red pepper and chile; Cut corn kernels from the cob and use the back of a knife to remove the milky substance from cob, place in a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat a 4 quart heavy put over low heat. Add bacon or olive oil to pot. Once bacon has rendered some fat, remove bacon and add onions. Cook onions in bacon fat or olive oil until translucent. Add cumin and cook another minute.
3. Add in roasted pepper, chile, corn, potatoes, stock, thyme and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes, then turn heat to medium and let cook until potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Mix cornstarch into 2 Tb. milk until smooth. Add to mixture along with remaining milk and optional shrimp and stir mixture until thickened and shrimp turn pink. Crumble bacon and use as a garnish or throw it all in the pot. Remove from heat and serve.
Servings: 6 470 calories with shrimp and bacon options 274 calories without the options
Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 20 minutes Inactive Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 45 minutes