Roasted Corn, Cheddar, and Bacon Chowder

One of my dearest friends, the one whose birthday we celebrated with ice cream cake a few weeks ago, just gave birth to a sweet baby boy. I made this for dinner, with homemade cornbread and a killer bacon, mushroom, and spinach salad.

Normally I find chowders bland, so I worked hard to make sure this one was the very opposite. A perfect crossover recipe for the first days of fall: the sweet corn of summer in a warm, smoky, stick-to-your-bones chowder.

Trader Joe’s has a great frozen, roasted corn that’s perfect for keeping in the freezer for times like this. Of course fresh corn would be delicious as well: stand the cobs on end in a big bowl and run a serrated knife down the side to shave off the kernels; toss the kernels in 1 tbsp olive oil and roast in a thin layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. If you like, you can roast the bell pepper with the corn; just add a touch more olive oil.

Roasted Corn, Cheddar, and Bacon Chowder
Serves: 8-10

9 small red potatoes with skin, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 cups roasted corn
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
6-8 slices bacon
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
Rosemary, salt, red pepper flakes to taste
Sweet rice flour or cornstarch for thickening
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Green onions for garnish

1. In a small pot, boil the potatoes in the chicken broth for 10-15 minutes or until just tender.

2. In a large stock pot, melt the 2 tbsp butter and cook the bacon until crispy. Set the cooked bacon aside.

3. Caramelize the onion in the bacon fat and butter: add the onion and cook, covered, on medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until the onion is golden.

4. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add the bell pepper, green chilies, roasted corn, rosemary to taste (I added about 1 tbsp), a pinch of red pepper flakes, and the boiled potatoes (but not the chicken stock yet). Cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

5. Add the chicken stock, milk, and cream and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes.

6. While the soup is simmering, grate your cheddar cheese and chop the cooked bacon into chunks for garnish.

7. Remove the soup from heat. Use a spoon to transfer about 1/4 cup of the hot liquid from the soup to a small bowl. Add about 2 tbsp sweet rice flour or cornstarch to liquid and whisk until there are no lumps, then whisk this mixture back into the soup; repeat as necessary until desired thickness is reached.

8. Use an immersion blender to blend soup to desired consistency; or transfer portions of the soup to a standing blender and blend in batches until desired consistency. I like a mix of thick, creamy soup and chunks of whole corn and veggies.

9. Season with salt and pepper and additional rosemary if desired.

10. Add the grated cheese and stir. Serve soup with additional grated cheese, crumbled bacon, and chives.

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