Corn Chowder Is Better Without Any Cream
I hate opening posts with rants and hatred and stuff. But I hate creamy soups. I really do. And that feeling won out over the desire to be lovey dovey, which we’ll get to later with a fantastic new recipe for milk-free corn chowder.
Creamy soups taste gluey to me rather than gooey, gloppy rather than luscious. They seem to beg for texture and body, or at least some crunch or variation to balance out all the richness. Maybe I’ll take a bite of cauliflower-cheese soup (in case that is your bag, recipe here). But eat the whole bowl? No way.
In college, when friends suggested bread bowls of soup at the chowder place in The Garage in Cambridge, I ran the other direction–to the neighboring Ben & Jerry’s. At any New England clam shack, you’ll find me ordering heaps of fried clams but steering clear of the monstrosity known as New England Clam Chowder.
On the other hand, when I hear about a restaurant serving Manhattan Clam Chowder, I rejoice and remember that New York beats New England any day (sorry, Red Sox-loving readers!). Once, my mom and sister reported tasting a bowl of clam chowder made with broth, not cream or tomato, and ever since I’ve searched fruitlessly for this species, which may go under the alias of Rhode Island Clam Chowder.
I’ve steered clear of creamy soups, but, by extension, often scrunched up my nose at their cream-less counterparts. What would corn chowder be like if I nixed the cream?
The technique optimizes fresh corn to extract the most flavor: you simmer the ears in the broth before adding the cut-off kernels towards the end. Plenty of olive oil, a dash of wine, and a diced potato lend the kind of savory richness I do enjoy, in brothy spoonfuls of corn-filled goodness.
The soup is so awesome I’ve named it after my city. And that means my rant is officially over.
New York Corn Chowder with Tarragon
Salting will depend a lot on your broth, so go slow. This is totally vegan if you opt for vegetable broth.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 small carrots, cut in quarter inch dice (about 1/4 cup)
3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups), cobs reserved (here’s how to de-kernel your corn without making a mess)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons white wine
4 cups chicken or really good vegetable broth, preferably homemade
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled, cut in a half inch dice
1/2 green pepper, in a half-inch dice
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion for 3 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Add the corn cobs to the saucepan. Add the broth, wine, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat til the broth barely simmers. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes, still simmering. Stir occasionally. You can make the soup ahead of time up to this point. Let cool, then store in the fridge with the corn cobs. Heat back up to a simmer before proceeding.
Discard the cobs and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes, green pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Add the corn kernels and the tarragon. Cook for 2 more minutes, then serve immediately.