Published July 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Usually awash in a glut of dairy, sweet corn doesn’t stand a chance in this classic summer soup. So we put the squeeze on the traditional approach.
Corn chowders are all too often excessively rich and laden with dairy, causing the star ingredient—fresh corn—to become a muddled nuance.
We wanted a simple but substantial soup that let the kernels’ crisp sweetness stand out against a creamy (not stodgy) backdrop seasoned with bits of pork, aromatic vegetables, and fresh herbs.
We started our recipe by sautéing bacon with onion and butter, which lent our base a sweet smokiness. We then focused on dialing back the one ingredient we knew was responsible for dulling the flavor of the corn: the dairy. Instead of the milk and heavy cream that many recipes call for, we settled on a small amount of half-and-half. But there was one drawback: Our chowder now lacked body. We found a simple solution. We pureed a portion of the chowder in a blender, and then reincorporated it into the pot. This gave us the fluid yet spoon-coating result we were hoping for.
Looking for other opportunities to highlight the corn, we decided to swap the chicken broth in our working recipe with a homemade corn broth. We started by stripping the kernels and “milking” the cobs with the back of a knife to extract all their pulp and juices. But instead of adding this mixture straight to the pot, we “juiced” the pulp, wrapping it in a clean kitchen towel, squeezing every last bit of liquid into a bowl, and then discarding the solids. We added the flavorful liquid to the pot just before serving, which preserved its fresh sweetness and lent the chowder a straight-from-the-cob flavor. Our chowder needed only one final flourish: a small handful of chopped basil leaves sprinkled over the top.list of recipes