Who else is missing summer? Warm weather, late nights and most importantly sweet corn! One of my favorite summer dishes is corn chowder. But this soup doesn’t have to be a summer only meal. I love having a bowl of corn chowder after a long, cold day on the farm. It’s warm, hearty, and delicious. The perfect lunch or dinner on a cold winter day.
Speaking of summer, I have to tell you a story. When you grow up in the country you get to do a lot of stuff that most people would think was totally strange. This is one of those things. Every summer my Grandfather plants a field of sweet corn after all of the cow corn has been planted. Did you know that the corn cows eat is different than the sweet corn we eat? Trust me, it is and you certainly don’t want to make the mistake of eating cow corn instead!! Every August when the sweet corn is ready to be harvested, my Mom and her sisters pick a day to “do the sweet corn.” On the decided upon day we all wake up at the crack of dawn and meet at my Nana’s house. Then we pile into the back of Gramps’ pickup truck and head out to the corn field. Once there we pick enough corn to fill the back of the pickup truck. Yes, I said fill. My Grandfather drives the truck along while the adults pick the corn and us kids act as runners. Literally my job my entire life picking corn has been to walk beside my Aunt with my arms out as she places ear after ear of corn into them. When I can no longer hold another ear, I run back to the truck and dump in my pile of corn. In case you were wondering, this is the equivalent of being stuck at the kid’s table on Thanksgiving! And I’m still there…in my twenties. Once the pickup is full we head back to Nana’s. When we get there my Nana is always waiting with homemade waffles and hot coffee! It’s the best part of the day! Then, we have to husk ALL of that corn! As some of us are husking, others go in the house to blanch the corn, cut it off the cob, and package it into freezer bags. It is a lot of work, but totally worth it for a years worth of sweet corn!
Because I would eat corn chowder every day if I could, I needed to find a way to make it healthier. So, I used a couple of tricks I learned in culinary school to lighten up the recipe while keeping it rich and creamy. The first step to making a lighter soup is to reduce the oil and butter used. We are going to cook our onion and garlic in 1 teaspoon of oil. This is just enough oil to sweat the onion until it is translucent. The garlic and onion give the soup a delicious flavor profile. They are simple flavors but they really highlight the sweet flavors from the corn.
One of the first weeks of class, one of the chefs taught us how to make soups that were thickened using pureed vegetables. So, to thicken the corn chowder I decided to use pureed cauliflower. It adds body and a hint of sweetness and earthiness, but it doesn’t take away from the corn and potatoes. We cook the cauliflower in chicken broth first so that we are able to soften the cauliflower enough to puree it in a blender.
Another method of thickening soups is through the cooking of the potatoes. Instead of turning the heat down once the potatoes come to a boil, you leave the mixture boiling for a solid eight minutes. This releases some of the starch from the potatoes. Starch adds thickness to your broth. The starch from the potatoes combined with the pureed cauliflower give this corn chowder a thickness that will make you forget you’re eating a skinny version.
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 head cauliflower
- 4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 1¼ cups milk (I used 2%)
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 16 ounces sweet corn, thawed or fresh
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the onion and garlic. Sweat the vegetables stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. This will take about 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the head of cauliflower into florets. Discard the stem and green leaves.
- Add the cauliflower and 1 cup of chicken broth to a medium saucepan.
- Cover and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the cauliflower is tender. You should be able to pierce it easily with a fork.
- Pour the cauliflower and broth into a blender. Puree until smooth.
- Set the cauliflower puree aside.
- Once the onion and garlic are ready, add the remaining 3 cups of chicken broth. Turn the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Add the milk and potatoes, stir to combine. Bring to a boil again. Once the mixture is boiling, keep the heat on high and boil for 8 minutes.
- Then reduce the heat to medium and add the cauliflower puree and corn. Stir to combine. Simmer on medium until the corn is tender.
- Add salt and pepper to taste