Last week fall was in the air and Boston, along with most of the East Coast, was drizzly and chilly. With a number of fresh corn cobs on my hands, I turned to corn chowder to bridge the late summer veggies and the early fall chill. This recipe is also one of my own creations. There are a million chowder recipes out there, so it’s not crazy original, but it’s so easy to fall back on heavy cream and bacon and let them do the heavy lifting. Here, I wanted the vegetables to bring most of the flavor. I got the idea to add garlic from one of my favorite recipes off Smitten Kitchen’s website.
To start things off, I roasted all the veggies together: roasted red pepper + roasted garlic bulb + roasted fresh corn = delicious flavor. I roasted half the corn and boiled the other half to pull out two different flavors from the same ingredient. The boiled kernels lend some sweetness to the soup. The other secret to making a great chowder without all the heavy cream is to boil a few potatoes and puree about half of them into a rich creamy base. For this recipe, I added the roasted garlic to the food processor and blended them into the potatoes. The rest get chopped into dice and added back into the soup as a solid textural component.
Of course now it’s back to hot, humid weather in Boston, but this is worth keeping in mind for when the weather gets cold again. If fresh corn is no longer available, frozen sweet corn can be used instead. It’s super healthy, too – it’s literally a large pot full of vegetables, and with just 1/2 cup of half-and-half, there aren’t a lot of fatty extras.
Roasted Garlic and Corn Chowder
5 ears fresh corn
1 large bulb garlic, still in its papery peel
1 bell pepper, red or orange
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1) Heat the oven to 350-degrees. Prepare the vegetables for roasting: Cut the corn stalks in half to increase their stability. Standing the corn cob on end, cut off the corn kernels; repeat with two of the corn cobs. Transfer the kernels to a rimmed baking tray and toss gently with olive oil. Halve the bell pepper and remove the seeds. Place cut side down on the same baking sheet. Finally, slice the tip off the garlic bulb, but leave the skin intact. Also season liberally with olive oil and transfer to the baking sheet. Season all vegetables with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes. The corn and garlic will be done at this point; keep roasting the bell pepper for an additional 15 minutes (45 minutes total).
2) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the remaining three corn cobs to the boiling water and cook 10 minutes. Using tongs, remove from boiling water. When cooled slightly, remove kernels from the cobs using the same technique outlined above.
3) Return the same pot of water to a boil. Add the potato pieces and cook through, about 20 minutes. The potatoes are done when a knife inserted in the middle slides out easily. Save 2-3 cups of the potato water, then drain.
4) Combine a few handfuls of corn kernels (about 1 cup), the roasted garlic, and half of the boiled potatoes together in a food processor. Pulse until the potatoes and corn have completely broken down and form a smooth puree.
5) Transfer the pureed potato mix to the large pot over medium heat. Add the rest of the corn, half-and-half, and stock. Warm through. Slice the roasted bell pepper into one-inch pieces and add to the pot. Stir to combine. Add the reserved potato water by 1/2-cup portions to thin the soup, if desired. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.