I apologize for my prolonged absence. Evidently, when you prepare to send your only child off to college, days and weeks disappear in a moment. I was absolutely certain I’d posted just over a week ago, not nearly a month ago.
I’m beyond proud of my Lucas. Next week we’re in Madison while he registers for classes; a few weeks later we move him in. It’s been an hour-by-hour emotional ride: one minute thrilled for him, then heartbroken at the thought of having him gone, then excited for future plans with my husband–then back to being sad again.
Anyway, it’s corn season again. This year, my son is working for a local farmer’s market, so we get the inside track on some fantastically fresh corn. We’ve been enjoying it every day, and I’ve been blanching and freezing as much as I can.
Last summer’s corn-chicken chowder is still a favorite in the summer. I decided to tweak the soup a bit, to boost that fabulous corn flavor even more. I added more corn and bell pepper, and replaced the chicken with ham for a salty balance to the sweetness.
But the secret ingredient in this chowder is in the corn — the corn cobs, to be specific. When they’re simmered in the soup, they intensify the corn-iness (so to speak), and also slightly thicken the chowder, creating a creamy texture without any actual cream.
This chowder is rich without being heavy, and healthy without being righteous about it. We loved it so much I made a second batch right away.
Corn and Ham Chowder
1 tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked ham (I used half a ham steak, about 5 oz.)*
2 tbs. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 hot red chile, minced (I used a cherry pepper), optional
2 tbs. flour
salt and pepper
2 cups whole milk
2-3 cups chicken stock
3 tbs. chopped fresh basil, divided
1 cup diced potato (I used 2 small red-skinned
kernels from 3 ears of corn (save the cobs)
Pour the oil into a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring now and then, just for a few minutes until the ham is very lightly browned and any liquid has evaporated. Using a slotted spoon, lift the ham out and set aside in a bowl.
Melt the butter in the hot pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper and chile and cook for about 5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes to get a little color on the vegetables.
Stir in the flour and cook for a few minutes. In the meantime, heat the milk and stock in the microwave for one minute. (This helps the soup to thicken without lumps.) Pour the hot milk and stock into the soup gradually, stirring constantly. Add the corn and potatoes, and half the basil. Chop the cobs in half and add to the chowder. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the ham and check the seasoning. Simmer 10 minutes longer. Lift the cobs out with tongs and discard. Serve the chowder hot.
*Oops! In the original version, I forgot to add ham to the ingredients list. This happens when you (and by that I mean “I”) write and post directly without letting it sit. It’s fixed now.