Chipotle Corn Chowder

The day before Thanksgiving is Pie Day, but in addition to the traditional baking (pumpkin and apple, which I can share later), I also made a soup for Thanksgiving lunch. I have been ruminating about using our frozen corn for a corn chowder for a few months now, and this seemed the perfect day to give it a go. Corn, after all, is a pretty traditional New England Thanksgiving food. For us, though, it has always been a challenge to grow, so using the last of our hard-won kernels warranted a special occasion. 

My recipe is modified from Pioneer Woman's Corn Chowder with Chilies [sic]. I liked the idea of spicing this up, but I went with our own dried chipotles instead of the canned ones called for in the recipe. Vinegary, canned peppers seemed weird to me in a creamy soup, but her addition of masa harina is genius. Here's my version:

Chipotle Corn Chowder

4 slices of bacon (ours was from Tendercrop and was corn-cob smoked, which is extra smoky and rich-tasting, and perfect for this)
4 tiny red onions, diced (that's probably 1 big onion)
4 tiny red bell peppers, diced (again, probably 1 normal sized one, but I was using up our very last peppers)
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 chipotle pepper, ground and/or finely minced (ours are super spicy and require a very light touch, but you can do this to taste)
3 cups of frozen corn, thawed (fresh would obviously be fine, too)
1 Tbs butter
32 oz. chicken stock 
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup masa harina stirred into 1/4 cup water

Cut up the bacon into little bits and get them rendering in a nice, heavy Dutch oven (medium heat is plenty). While they heat up, dice your onion and add it to the bacon (that's right, we're sautéing our veggies in bacon grease, and it is outstanding). While the onion sweats, dice up the bell pepper and then add them to the bacon-y mirepoix. Then add the garlic (easiest with a garlic press, in my opinion) and chipotle (mine were dried and then frozen whole, so I used kitchen shears to snip it into tiny bits). Give everything a few stirs to scrape up the browning bacon bits and get everything soft.

Add the butter to the pan and stir until it melts, then add the corn and give everything a good mix with your spatula so it's all evenly coated with butter and bacon fat. Tasty. 

Note: since your frozen corn has already been blanched, it doesn't actually need to "cook" — we're just heating it up. If you're using fresh corn, you would have prepped it however you like to eat corn on the cob, then cut it off the cob. Either way, corn is already cooked, so don't overdo it.

Next, add the chicken stock, cream, and half and half. Stir until blended:

Bring it to a boil, keeping an eye on it and stirring occasionally so it doesn't boil over--cream will boil faster than water, and foams right up out of the pot in a blink. Once it bubbles, turn down the heat and stir in your masa harina and water mixture, which is a brilliant thickener for this. Simmer for 15 minutes.

You can then eat it up right away, or save it for later. We had our for Thanksgiving lunch with some delicious dinner rolls that Tiegan made (I'll try to get her to do a Kids' Corner post on the recipe soon — it's a great first bread for kids to try).

Also on the scene are the remnants of my (first) Thanksgiving Bloody Mary, which is why I was so keen to get the horseradish dug up and prepared on Pie Day as well. Pretty nice first course!

Oh, and the soup? You should make some, because it's really, really good. Not a light dish by any means, what with the trifecta of fats (bacon grease, butter, and cream). But that's why it's good, and for a special occasion. The bell peppers and chipotle really made this special, so it's sweet and a little spicy and also smoky and creamy — it's firing on an awful lot of tastebud cylinders. Also, I am opposed to potatoes in soups, so you will notice their absence from this chowder. You'll never miss them, I promise — they'd just be mushy and insipid and ruin it. 

I loved this so much that I'm very sad it's gone (although it made a great lunch today!). This gives me a lot of incentive to keep at it with the corn growing, even though it's never gone that great for us. Now I just need enough for a big pot of chowder every year!

I think we have a new tradition.


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