Summer Corn Chowder

Summer corn chowderEven though my favorite cooking season is fall, I do like summer cooking. Mostly because there’s just such an abundance of fresh vegetables which is constantly changing from week to week as the season progresses. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise most of my summertime posts are vegetable-centric. Like this week’s post for example. We’re heading into the heart of sweet corn season and since it was rather cool and fall-like this week in Chicago I decided to make a quick pot of corn chowder. Correction, a chock-full-of-corn chowder!

Hang on a minute, you say. Isn’t chowder more of a winter dish? Maybe a really thick and hearty one like New England clam. But corn can be rather delicate so you need to match the density of the soup with the main ingredient. The broth in this corn chowder is much lighter with just enough cream added to give it some chowder flavor and texture. I also cut out another dense chowder staple, potatoes, and added in some other lighter, fresher, summer ingredients like red peppers and red kale. Lots of corn, light on the cream, a very satisfying summer soup, despite its name.

I think there are two keys to making this chowder work well. The first is making sure you don’t overcook the corn. You need to be gentle with fresh sweet corn. If you boil it too long the corn will get tough and chewy. The kernels won’t ‘pop’ when you bite into them. Come on, you know the feeling, we’ve all had chewy corn on the cob at some point. Not too good, right? Personally, I’ve found that dropping ears of corn in boiling water and cooking for 5 minutes is just the right amount of time to keep the kernels crisp and juicy, yet tender.

Second, skip the chicken stock and use the corn water in the chowder. As you know I’m a not huge fan of using boxed or canned stocks in soups. You’re not making salty chicken chowder with some corn added. You’re making corn chowder. You want corn to be the dominant flavor, so strain the cooking liquid and use it. Even the five minutes those ears of corn spend in the pot will give the water a good aroma and flavor. Think about when you dump the corn water out of the pot before cleaning it. Isn’t that what you want your chowder to smell like? Corn? Yes. Yes you do.

I did a really good job with this, but it’s also one of those dishes where I start to come up with really good ideas after I’ve made it. For example, how about adding in some grilled corn? Or grill the de-kerneled cobs and then make some stock/broth out of them? Or after slicing the corn off of the cob, taking the flat edge of your knife and scraping the cobs into a bowl giving you some corn ‘milk’ to add to the soup? See what I mean? I really wish I scraped the cobs. Don’t know why I left that flavor just sitting there.

Regardless, this summer corn chowder is pretty delicious and really hit the spot this week. Feel free to dial back on the amount of corn used and add your own touches. I will say, a few dashes of Old Bay is a very good way to finish the chowder right before serving.

Corn Chowder

  • 5 ears of corn, shucked, cooked and sliced off cob
  • 4 oz bacon/ham small dice
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 5 C corn water
  • 1 ½ C cream
  • 1 red pepper, small dice
  • 8 scallions, sliced
  • 5 leaves red kale, shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of Old Bay

Bring a large pot (large enough to hold the 5 ears of corn) of water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat on the stove-top. Drop the 5 ears of corn in. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove corn and allow to cool. Reserve cooking liquid.

When the corn is cool enough to handle slice the kernels off the cob, put in a bowl and set aside.

In a smaller soup pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until fat has rendered and the bits are cooked.

Add the shallots and garlic. Cook until soft, a couple of minutes.

Add the butter, allow it to melt. Next stir in the flour and let it cook for 5 minutes, while stirring so it doesn’t burn or scorch.

Pour in the corn water and stir while cooking. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the cream. Add the corn, red pepper, scallions, and kale. Cook for 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve!



  1. John G says:

    This is definitely on my to do list. I just love roasting corn on the grill and storing for the winter. I never thought of saving the shavings of the corn stellar idea! and saving the broth from boiling! Bravo!!! I usually pick at the cobs but when you roast dozens of ears it fills you up quick. I also smoke and grind peppers so the old bay is no longer in the cabinet I concoct something with a tad more kick and depending on the dish more or less celery seed.

    1. Very nice! Yup I always try to use water I’ve been simmering things in for soups, like the ham bone water for split pea soup. Skim off the fat and it’s way better than a carton of chicken stock.

  2. chef mimi says:

    Love it. That is a beautiful chowder. I also love fall for every reason, and am already collecting dried fruits, hazelnuts, and so forth for future fall cooking. But you’re right – who could hate cooking with food fresh out of the garden! I’m lucky enough to still be getting tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and zucchini.

    1. Thanks! Yes, can’t beat summer for fabulously fresh veggies.

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