I am going to ruin your summer day, I’m sorry. I’m going to say the phrase that you have been avoiding since March. It’s the phrase that you haven’t needed because you’ve been diligent about eating fresh and delicious things, whether or not you have noticed they are healthy. I’m going to say the phrase that you have pointedly not been thinking about because it is bikini season, after all. Here it is. Are you ready for it?
Comfort food. It’s a term usually reserved for the colder, darker times, when the weather has snubbed us and we must turn to food for support. Wrapped in thick winter sweaters, we huddle around a table, clutching bowls in our frigid hands and spooning rick, warm, soothing mouthfuls of food into our bodies. We need it and it makes us feel better. It is the way we get through the winter.
Summer, on the other hand, is the opposite season for comfort food. Summer doesn’t call for anything other than the bright sun, warm breezes, and light, fresh, and delicious summer fare that is best fresh picked and served promptly. Summer doesn’t need comfort food. And yet sometimes you just find yourself wanting to eat something rich and flavorful and reminiscent of comfort food, even as you want it to be light and not weigh you down.
Enter corn chowder.
This chowder is comfort food, but not in the way you may think. It’s creamy, yes. But it’s not so creamy that it snaps your beach body back into hibernation– this version uses milk instead of cream to get that same lovely flavor and texture without sacrificing your summer strut. It’s luscious and almost carefree, and yet rich and flavorful from the combination of bacon and veggies simmered in some broth. Ah, and the corn. I almost forgot the corn. This lovely veggie is at its peak right now, which means that it is juicy and sweet and infinitely superior to its frozen and canned cousins. This summer sweetie shines while keeping the chowder light, refreshing, and feeling like summer.
Corn chowder is the perfect way to get that comfort food quality without the usual stick-to-your-bones afterfeeling. There is just something about it that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, even amidst the bounties and warmth of summer. So whether you’re feeling under the weather or are just looking for something that feels heartier than the typical summer fare, fry up some bacon, kernel some corn, and get your corn chowder on. It’ll make you feel better. I promise.
Adapted from this Gourmet recipe, July 2005
1/2 cup diced low-sodium bacon (about 6 slices)
1.5 large sweet onions, diced (about 2 cups)
2 large carrots, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 small-medium), diced
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 fresh thyme sprigs or about 2 tablespoons dried thyme
6 ears corn, kernels removed (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 cups 2% milk (for a slightly creamier version, use 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup half and half, or go all the way with 1 1/2c heavy cream)
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare everything first by cutting the first five ingredients into roughly 1/4 inch chunks. Set aside the potatoes. Be careful when handling the raw bacon, and make sure to wash everything– the cutting board, the knife, and your hands– after it has touched the raw meat and before using the surfaces for anything else.
Cook the bacon in a wide, heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently. I know the temptation to cook bacon over high heat, but the lower temperature will let the fat render and melt. Cook until the meat is crisp and then transfer it with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with two layers of paper towels to drain.
Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the hot bacon fat and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft. This should take about eight to ten minutes. Once soft, add the potatoes, broth, and thyme. Bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer until the potatoes are just tender. This should take about fifteen minutes.
While the broth is simmering, cut the kernels from the corn cobs. I recommend standing the cob upright in the bowl and bringing the knife down its length from the top– the sides of the bowl should catch most of the runaway kernels.
When the potatoes are just tender, add the corn and milk. Simmer uncovered for about ten minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the bacon. Serve hot. Lick the bowl. Repeat.