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Creamy Leek and Corn Chowder

This recipe takes advantage of the wonderful sweet corn just coming into the market. It can be made with chicken broth or just water—since it uses the corn cobs to enrich and flavor the broth, it makes a great vegetarian soup. It’s hearty, a “chowder” (meaning there are potatoes in it) and also wonderful with the addition of a garnish of sautéed shrimp or scallops. It could also be made as a clam and corn chowder, for that matter, with the clam steaming broth incorporated into the soup, and the shucked steamed clams added at the end. One “trick” you need to know is how to easily cut the kernels from the ear of corn: you lay it down rather than standing it up, and they won’t fly all over the place. And, don’t cut too deep, as you can simply take the back of your knife, (never the blade!) and scrape all the juicy corn that you’ve left, leaving behind the tough outer shell of the kernels.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3 large or 4 small ears fresh sweet corn
  • 1 small red or other thin-skinned potato
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water, plus 2 cups more water
  • 1 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp. if using canned broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp. dried
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 1-2 tsp. dry white wine, or 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro or finely slivered sweet basil leaves

Husk and clean silk from corn. Cut kernels from cobs, set aside. Place cobs in a pot with broth and water, the teaspoon of salt and bay leaf. Bring rapidly to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf and corn cobs. Set broth aside.

Cut dark green tops from leek. Slit white and pale green leek from stem to root, leaving root attached. Wash thoroughly, getting all the dirt and sand from between the leaves. Cut again the same way, but through the center of the uncut halves, quartering the leek. Slice into fine pieces and set aside. Finely dice onion, celery and jalapeño (remove the seeds and white pith first unless you want a spicy soup!), and add to leeks. Peel and dice the potato, and set aside in a little cold water until needed.

Heat a heavy, 3 quart saucepan and add the butter. Add the leek mixture, and stir to coat lightly with the butter. Add thyme, turn heat to low and cover pan. Let cook, stirring every five minutes, for about fifteen minutes. Make sure the flame is low, so that the vegetables don’t brown. Add the garlic when leek mixture is completely cooked, and stir once before proceeding.

Add the corncob broth and the drained potatoes, and season lightly with salt and white pepper (black ok if white unavailable). Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the corn kernels, return to a simmer for five more minutes. Remove from stove and partly puree, using an immersion blender, or whirl only half the soup briefly in the regular blender, and combine with unblended soup. Result should be rough, slightly thickened but not a smooth puree. Add cream and wine, taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Do not boil after adding cream. Serve garnished with cilantro or basil.