When I think about corn, one of two thoughts emerge: the time in college where my best friend couldn’t be convinced to eat anything but bags of reheated frozen corn or that horrible sensation I get from shucking sweet corn, when the silky hairs creep all over my hands and wrists. I also conjure the pictures my mother loves of my siblings & I grinning with sticky smiles & ears of corns as big as our arms teetering precariously between pudgy fingers.
In the spirit of these grand corn memories, I’ve decided to make one of my most favorite soups. I absolutely love combinations of salty & sweet & spicy. I love how vibrant the fresh thyme leaves make an otherwise dull vegetable broth.
Spicy Vegetarian Corn Chowder
yields 3-4 servings
1 T. butter
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, just the leaves
1/2 t. salt
1/2 poblano pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced (or more if you want more spice!)
3 T. flour
2 cans of vegetable broth (or one of those cartons if you prefer to buy the cartons)
1/2 t. cayenne powder
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium-large potato, cubed
1 c. cream or half & half
3 ears of corn or 1 1/2 c. frozen corn
To begin, melt the butter in a saucepan or stock pot. Add the onions, garlic, & salt. Cook on medium heat until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the thyme leaves, jalapeño, and poblano pepper. Cook until the peppers begin to soften and the onions brown, maybe another 3 minutes. This caramelization process is where much of the rich flavor will derive from for the soup.
Add the flour (this is important for the subsequent thickening of the broth) and toss it around a bit to coat the vegetables in the pot. Pour in the vegetable broth. Add the black pepper & cayenne pepper. Keep soup on medium heat, slowly bringing the broth to boiling. Add the potatoes and cream and allow to simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the potatoes start to break down and the cream begins to thicken the soup. If using fresh or frozen corn, you can add it in once the potatoes and cream begin to simmer. Once the potatoes are soft and broken down, you can remove the pot from the heat & gently use a pastry blender (if and only if your pot is leaves enough room to do this without putting your entire hand in scalding soup) to mash some of the potatoes to add additional thickness or you can leave them as larger chunks, depending on the consistency you desire.
Garnish the soup with fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately with warm crusty bread.