This is a soup made for summer, fresh and bright. Compared to many corn chowders that can be a bit on the heavy side with cream and bacon, this chowder is rather light. It gets its body from Yukon gold potatoes and fresh corn. The cool thing about this soup is the way the soup base is made—after you strip the kernels from the cobs, you just simmer the cobs for half an hour. You could use this method for any corn or vegetable soup for which you wanted a stronger corn flavor. I love the way tarragon pairs with corn, to me its a perfect taste complement. But if tarragon isn’t your thing, you might try it with basil or thyme. In that case just swap out the fennel for more onions and potatoes.
Here’s another idea. Have leftover cooked corn from a weekend barbecue? Just use them for this recipe, or one like it. Cut off the kernels and simmer the cobs.
This recipe uses whole corn-on-the-cob. The cobs are used to make a richly corn flavored broth. You can make the chowder with with frozen corn, if you want. If you use frozen corn, you'll skip the cooking of the corn, as frozen corn is already cooked, and you'll need to add some sort of stock, either vegetable stock or chicken stock. If you want to skip the wine, you can, though if you do you may want to squeeze a little lemon juice into the soup to help balance the sweetness from the corn.
- 4 ears corn, in the husk (resulting in about 3 cups corn kernels)
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 small waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon (French)
Prep the onions, fennel and potatoes while you are cooking the corn or making the corn broth.
1 If you are starting with fresh corn-on-the-cob (versus frozen), you can either cook the corn first, or not. We grill the corn first to get the extra flavor from the corn. You can make this soup with leftover whole cooked corn, or you can use raw corn corn on the cob. To grill, keep the corn-on-the-cobs in their husks, and grill them directly over high heat until the outer husks are nicely charred, about 10-15 minutes. Then remove from the grill, let cool a little, then remove the husks and silk.
2 Cut the corn kernels away from the cobs. (See our tip for removing corn from the cob using a bundt pan to stabilize the cobs.) Set aside the corn kernels. Do not discard the cobs.
3 Break the corn cobs in half, and put them in a pot with 6 cups water and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. If you skip this step, use a quart of vegetable or chicken stock, plus 2 cups water in place of the corn broth in 5.
4 Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large, thick-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and fennel and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
5 Add the white wine and boil it down by half. While the wine is boiling, remove the corn cobs from the corn broth and discard. Add the potatoes to the pot with the onions and fennel, then pour in the corn broth, along with the bay leaves. Stir well and add salt to taste (you'll need to add more salt than you expect, as the corn broth is unsalted). Simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. If you are using raw corn on the cob or frozen corn, you'll want to add the corn to the soup about halfway into the cooking. If you are using grilled or cooked corn, add at the end of cooking and heat for a few minutes.
6 To finish, add the fresh chopped tarragon to the pot.