Smoky Corn and Chile Chowder

corn chowder

I have a disorder.  It's called "I've Been Cooking all Weekend, and I Still Stop at the Farmer's Market at the End of My Long Drive Home to Buy Corn for the Soup I've Been Fantasizing About the Whole Way.  And I Have Two Tired Children in Tow." Do they have medication for that?  Should I take it?  I'm scared it will change me.  And then there wouldn't be any soup.

I mentioned yesterday the delicious corn and chanterelle chowder on Orcas Island.  Yancey took a bite and said, "It's good, but yours is better."  Game on.  It was good, but I wanted something creamier, more full of corn, and with some heat.  I hope chiles are cancer-fighting. If they are, I'm home-free.  My mom is, too.

I came home from Orcas with a half gallon of heavy cream, a ziploc full of boiled fingerling potatoes, and lots of shredded sharp white cheddar.  And some cooked chopped bacon.  Hello!  Corn chowder, absolutely screaming my name from the heavens.  But I was missing corn and chiles.  Broadway Farmer's Market.  I ran into Emily there, who said, "You must have some kind of homing device for where all the farmer's markets are around the city."  I do.  That's part of my disorder.

I blame my disorder on these

And I couldn't resist these darling yellow zucchinis.  Yancey said they were the size of a Sharpie pen, which is just about a perfect description.  When you write with them, they spell d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

It's starting to feel like fall, and I'm sort of giddy about it.  Chiles, corn, squash, potatoes, even a few small apples from the market. Wyatt's new school clothes are all folded and ready in his drawer, and I've taped his school supply list into my planner. I know I'm not the only one in the world who loves sharp crayons and a new pencil box.  September means beginnings, no matter how old we are.  I feel like doing a little jig, singing, "It's soup season!  It's soup season!"  Surely, that's part of the disorder.

grilled chiles

Smoky Corn and Chile Chowder
Corn is REALLY expensive this season if you're planning on serving it at a big BBQ.  If you just buy 6 ears for this soup, though, it won't break the bank.  I make versions of this soup in the winter using frozen corn kernels, but it's infinitely better when you've just peeled the soft silk off the ears.  The markets have a mind-blowing selection of mild and hot chiles right now, every shape and color. Choose whatever looks good to you. If you're stuck with the abysmal selection at most grocery stores, you can use anaheim, pasilla, and jalapenos.

big handful assorted chiles, hot or mild (I used six medium-sized ones)
1 lb. fingerling or small red potatoes, boiled and cut into large chunks
4 Tb. butter
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
6 ears freshest-you-can-find corn, kernels cut from the cob
1 lb. yellow summer squash (zucchini, patty pan), cut into bite-size rounds or diced
2 c. heavy cream (eek!  This is not a diet soup)
2-3 c. milk (eyeball how thick or thin you want it to be)
1 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar
lots of kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
cooked chopped bacon for garnish
chives or green onions for garnish

Turn your grill on high.  Lightly oil chiles a and grill until blackened everywhere, about 4 minutes/side.  You can also do this under the broiler–you just have to tend to them more.  Put the charred chiles in a plastic or paper bag and close it. Let them steam and cool for about 20 minutes.  This loosens the skins.  Pull the skin and stem off, then lay the chiles flat and scrape the seeds off with a paring knife. Roughly chop all of them. You should end up with about half a cup of chiles this way.

Boil your potatoes.  Let them cool a bit, then cut them in half or in chunks, depending on how big they are.

Put butter into a big soup pot and melt on medium heat.  Saute onions in butter until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Turn up heat a little bit, add corn and squash, and saute just to bring the flavor out, about 3 minutes.  Add chiles, cream, milk, cheddar, salt, pepper, and potatoes and bring to a simmer. Take out a couple cups of the mixture and puree them in a blender or food processor, then add back to the soup. Simmer and bring to a boil slowly, then turn down and simmer for about 15 minutes more until all the flavors blend.  You don't want this soup to vigorously boil because of the milk.  If you were using just cream it wouldn't matter, but you get any thinner than that and you risk curdling.

Serve with bacon and chives on top.

A note on soup consistency:  you might prefer your soup on the thin side, or you might like to stand a spoon up in it.  I like this sort somewhere in the middle.  The good news is this--if you want it thicker, puree more or add more potatoes.  If you want it thinner, add more milk or a little water.  If you add more liquid, make sure you're tasting for salt so it doesn't get watered down.