Corn Chowder Is Better Without Any Cream

Posted by on Thursday Jul 26th, 2012 | Print

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.

Milk, cream, and cheese count among my favorite foods, but they belong in ice cream and grilled cheese, lasagna and, well, whipped cream.

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?

A wonderful, rich soup, it turns out. A soup that’s not just milk free, but also butter and bacon free (if you use vegetable stock, it’s completely vegan).

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.

**Recipe**

New York Corn Chowder with Tarragon
Serves 2

Salting will depend a lot on your broth, so go slow. This is totally vegan if you opt for vegetable broth.

Ingredients
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.

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  • art and lemons

    There’s nothing like a good rant to kick-start your writing. This soup looks incredible and timely, plus corn and tarragon go so well together. Can’t wait to try it.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      I’m finding that tarragon goes so well with more than I imagined. It’s vying for position as my favorite herb.

  • http://twitter.com/EatWithAholes Eating with Assholes

    Hmm. I actually just posted about corn chowder, too, and was asking myself some of the same questions. For whatever reason, though, I just expect a chowder to be creamy in texture. (Completely wrong assumption, I admit – I have a problem with manhattan clam chowder, too.) However, if you’ve got soup with corn and potatoes, cream is completely optional to create creaminess. I’ve settled on pureeing part of the soup, but not adding dairy.

    Your soup does look great, though! Just that it butts up against this oddly stubborn part of my brain that dictates such things and yells “but it’s not chowder!”

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      I love the idea of pureeing some of the soup – such an easy way to get creaminess without actually adding cream. Plus, I’m so happy you added bacon to yours – yum!

      I guess the definition of a chowder is that it’s thick and contains potatoes? Or maybe you just “know it when you see it.” 

      • Sally

        According to the dictionary on my computer, the definition of “chowder” is a soup that contains fish, clams or corn and potatoes and onions.  When I was reading your recipe, I realized that, for me, chowder doesn’t include much more than the previously mentioned ingredients. Cooking liquid, maybe milk or cream, maybe tomatoes or bacon, salt and pepper.  I tend to use tomatoes only when I’m not using milk or cream.  

        Yours sounds tasty to me, but more like vegetable soup than chowder.  

        • Melanie Nisbet- Riley

          That is true…I just made this soup and it is more like a corn-veggie soup, not chowder.

          • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

            Thanks for the feedback!

  • http://twitter.com/cmroman Cristina Roman

    Agreed! I was so excited when I found an amazing potato leek soup that doesn’t require cream. It still manages to have that “creamy” quality from the potatoes though!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Potatoes are like the magic ingredient in soups, I guess. Your potato-leek sounds so simple and delish.

  • azk209

    Just tried this last night – added jalapenos and garlic, swapped celery for the carrots, and did a quick run with the immersion blender before adding the corn kernels. Served with garlic croutons – so perfect! 

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Those sound like excellent additions – especially the jalapeño! Oh, and the garlic croutons. Yum!!

  • Abbe Townsend

    I followed this recipe just over a week ago and loved it. Hubby called it a *meal in a bowl* and asked for seconds. I will most definitely be making your *creamless chowder* again and again, and may throw some pasta into it next time for an impromptu minestrone… of the tomato-less variety!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      So glad to hear it! Let me know how it tastes with pasta thrown in…sounds like a great way to transform the soup into a meal.

  • Tanyaerntson

    I just got done making this.  Because I always think soup tastes better the next day, I made it tonight with plans to eat it for lunch the next two days at work.  I did sneak a taste tonight and it is SO yummy.  I made no substitutions and made it just as you wrote it. (Although I did add the onions to the oil – wink).  This is the first time I’ve used tarragon.  When I first smelled it I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but it’s wonderful in the soup.  

    Thanks for a great recipe!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      You’re welcome – glad you enjoyed! Did the fresh corn hold up well overnight in the fridge?

      • Tanya

        It held up just fine.  I had it for lunch yesterday and today.  Even today the corn kernels were crunchy and sweet.  This will definitely be making an appearance in my kitchen again soon!

  • Karen

    Recipe sounds great but reread the procedure. First sentence? What do you saute? Also: Discard the cob and the bay leaf? When are you removing the kernels? Thanks

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Karen–apologies for the typo…you sauté the onion. I’ll update the recipe now. Discarding the bay leaf/cobs is in there – beginning of the third paragraph.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1361610027 Tricia Oliver

    Looks like a great recipe! Should I make any adjustments to the recipe if I want to use frozen corn instead?

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Nope! It should adapt just fine. Hope you enjoy!

  • Sarah

    This looks like such an amazing combination of flavors and textures. It looks like the ultimate comfort food in the lightest way. Can’t wait to try this! Thanks for another keeper! I had featured u in the post of Top 7 Nutritious and Wonderful Soups on AllFreshRecipes, expect ur more recipes!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Thanks, Sarah! Glad you like the soup!

  • Melanie Nisbet- Riley

    I made this soup the other day and it is delicious! Thank you. :-)

  • wayfaringstranger

    Wow – this was so delicious! I made it according to the recipe, but with three minor changes – I pureed about 2 cups of the soup to make it a bit creamier, I cooked the onions with about four strips of really thick, good applewood smoked bacon from the butcher, and I had some celery I needed to use up so I added that to the pot. Thank you for sharing, will definitely be making this again!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      So glad you enjoyed! Thanks for sharing your tweaks.