In my column this week, I look to the heavens for a great corn chowder recipe. I also promise my good readers that they will find additional tips and tricks for a great pot of chowder on these pages, so here goes:
Instead of chicken broth, I use my homemade chicken stock, which I make from roasted chicken carcasses and pan drippings. If you don't make your own, use the very best stock you can afford.
I don't like to keep the bacon in the chowder as it cooks. I think the pieces turn soft and yucky. I always used to pick them out as a kid. But I admit that cooking the chowder along with the bacon improves flavor. To go that route, just leave it in instead of taking it out with a slotted spoon as I describe in the recipe. You can always cook extra bacon bits and reserve them for a crispy garnish.
You can add small chunks of cooked ham. Put it in when you put in the cooked potato. I've heard of people adding chicken, but I've never tried it. Smoked chicken chunks might be pretty good.
If you want a thicker chowder, take out a cup or so and puree it, than put it back in. You can also use a potato masher and gently mash the soup--breaking down the potato chunks, which in turn acts as thickener. Just do it gradually. Mash a little, then stir and see if it needs more mashing.
You want to add a can of creamed corn? Add your goddamn can of creamed corn.
If you really are craving corn chowder in the winter, use frozen shoepeg corn instead of fresh.
Instead of whole milk, you can use skim or reduced fat. You can use half and half or heavy cream for a really rich result. I often use evaporated milk. The actual amount of milk depends. Start off with a little and add more if the chowder needs thinning.
Use celery salt instead of regular salt to kick up flavor. I've been known to add a shake of granulated chicken bouillon. Use a hell of a lot of pepper--but slowly. Keep tasting, tasting, tasting and adding as needed. Remember: you can always add more, but you can't take it out.
Some vegan/vegetarian suggestions (I've never made it this way, so you're in unchartered territory): Omit bacon. Use olive oil instead of butter or bacon fat. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken stock. I don't normally use these, but to kick up flavor for a vegetarian version, you might add chopped raw celery to the chopped raw onion and Sauté them together.
And a couple of links:
My great grandfather was a potato and sweetcorn farmer in Independence, Ohio. You can read about it here.
Or you can watch me eat an ear of sweetcorn.
Good luck with the chowder.