August’s Only Acceptable Soup

August 4, 2008

It’s not unusual to arrive at my parents’ house in Minnesota for a visit and find the kitchen a buzzing hub of activity and people. In fact, the first time Kevin came to Minnesota with me, the first time he’d ever met my family, mere weeks after we’d started dating, we walked in the front door only to find a party in full swing. Apparently, my parents’ friends had wanted to meet my new boyfriend. This situation can be a little overwhelming (just ask Kevin), but it works out pretty well if, during your travels, you’ve worked up an appetite. There is always something delicious to eat.

Last Thursday, when Kevin and I got to Minnesota, we weren’t there five minutes before my mom was rummaging through the refrigerator and ladling something into a bowl. She’d made corn chowder the night before and wanted us to have a taste. I dutifully took the spoonful she passed to me, still gathering my bearings after a long trip in the car. But with one bite, I knew I was home and that I was in for a delicious weekend. And that I would have to make the soup as soon as we got back to Chicago.

Now, I’m aware that soup—a chowder, no less—might seem like an odd choice for August. But, since I am not a fan of cold soups (not for lack of trying; I’ve hopefully made one batch of gazpacho after another, only to be disappointed time and time again), the only exception I make to summer’s moratorium on soups is for a broth studded with sweet corn. To me, it is August’s only acceptable soup.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

There are a couple other reasons why this bubbling, steaming pot of soup is not as insane as it might seem. First, unlike your typical chowder, it is light and silky, rather than leaden and creamy. Cubed yukon gold potatoes and half-moons of celery bob in the broth, which is flavored deeply with smoke and sweetness. But the star, as it should be, is the corn, freshly-shaved off the cob, each kernel bursting with sunny flavor.

Also, in Minnesota, where humidity is a once-an-August phenomenon and cozy sweaters are a nighttime staple, a slurp of soup can be very welcome once the sun dips below the horizon on an August evening. And, even though the thermometer registered 91 degrees when we pulled into our garage here in Chicago last night, I knew we’d be having the soup for dinner. We’d been gone four days, seen two generations of family and covered a good portion of the state, but it wasn’t enough. I was homesick for the first time in a long time and what’s more comforting than a steaming mug of chowder? Even in August.

My Mother’s Corn Chowder

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

4 ounces of bacon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 celery ribs, diced
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
4 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock (low-sodium or homemade)
2 cups water
4 ears of corn, kernels shaved from the cob and one shaved cob reserved
Greek yogurt, for garnish
snipped chives, for garnish

Fry the bacon in the bottom of a large soup pot, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Drain the bacon drippings from the pot, but do not wipe out the pot. Return the pot to the stove, turn the heat up to medium high and heat the olive oil in the pot. Add the onion, celery and herbs (through the black pepper). Stir to coat the vegetables with the oil and herbs and cook until the onions have become translucent and soft (several minutes). Add the potatoes and cook for five minutes, until the potatoes have begun to soften. Turn the heat down to low and sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Stir and cook for several minutes.

Add the chicken stock and water. Crumble the bacon and add all but 1 tablespoon to the soup. Next, stir in the corn kernels. Finally, add the reserved, shaved cob of corn to the soup (which will help flavor and thicken the broth). Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.

Before serving, remove the shaved corn cob and taste the soup for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Serve the soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt, snipped chives and the reserved crumbled bacon.


22 Responses to “August’s Only Acceptable Soup”

  1. Mary Beth Says:

    In our family, no matter which house we’re in, the kitchen is always the hub. When we used to visit my grandparents, this got a little tight because they had a tiny kitchen and there were a lot of us:)

    I’m looking forward to trying this soup but I think I may wait a couple of weeks, since August in NJ is anything but cool.

  2. CB Says:

    It’s late summer here in Seattle and this soup sounds perfect. Warm days with cool nights. I’m going to make it this week…but I think I might ‘grill’ the corn first to add a twist on the flavor. CB, Sizzle on the Grill

  3. Kevin Says:

    You’re lucky your mom had good food when I first visited your home, it may have been the only thing keeping me and my bandanna from running out the door!

    Had a great and well-eaten time this past weekend and the soup was tasty. And the bacon wasn’t even the best part, definitely the corn.

  4. Amy Says:

    Fresh corn and bacon? YUM! This sounds like it would be perfect for the cool evenings we’ve been having here as of late, too…sounds like the kitchen of the home you grew up in was filled with good food, laughter and love. 🙂 –Amy

  5. JanScholl Says:

    I make huge pots of soup year round. In fact, made some white bean chili last week. I like this recipe other than I would sub some smoky baked tofu for the bacon and use veggie broth. I may make this tonight! with fresh cheezy biscuits.

  6. Kristin Says:

    I see nothing wrong with soup in the summer. And this soup looks WONDERFUL! I think I’ll be making it some time soon.

  7. Dana Says:

    I wouldv’e agreed with you about corn chowder being the only acceptable August soup – but then I tried this:

    And now there are 2 soups I must make in August (and eat in the AC).

  8. Kevin Says:

    That corn chowder looks so good!

  9. J for KC Says:

    Sounds delicious! I totally agree with you about cold soup. I keep trying, but I still love a warm bowl of soup.

  10. This looks so great and I love the idea of Greek Yogurt for garnish as a nice change to sour cream. When it cools off this will be top on the to be made this fall list.


  11. nicole Says:

    This is perfect for SF right now, as it is yet again chilly and foggy, though there is a lot of wonderful corn at the market! I shall definitely have to try this.

  12. […] August’s Only Acceptable Soup [image] It’s not unusual to arrive at my parents’ house in Minnesota for a visit and find the kitchen a […] […]

  13. Mary Beth: There’s something very intimate about a tiny kitchen. I like it.

    CB: This is a fantastic idea. I hope you give it a try!

    Kev: You and your bandana-wearing self wouldn’t have gotten very far. I’d have been right behind you. Glad you liked the soup. (And glad you stayed.)

    J for KC: Agreed.

    Cathy: I hardly use sour cream anymore, since I fell in love with Greek yogurt. It’s lovely here.

    nicole: I didn’t mention this in the recipe and I’m sure you can figure it out, but I think this would be fine without the bacon. I’m guessing the spices would lend plenty of smokiness. If it must be chilly in August, at least you can have soup, right?

  14. […] Chowdah. August 6, 2008, 2:46 pm Filed under: The Kitchen Sink | Tags: bacon be good, chowder me with love, me so corny, summa’ August’s only acceptable soup – corn chowder. […]

  15. Whitney Says:

    I made this last night and it was awesome. I used pepper bacon since that was all the had at my Treasure Island and normal chili powder because they didn’t have chipotle at the Spice House. I can’t wait to eat the leftovers for dinner tonight. YUM.

  16. alec Says:

    perfection. I’m hitting the farmer’s market this weekend and this one simply must be made. beautiful blog!

  17. Whitney: I’m so glad you tried it! Pepper bacon would be delicious, I think. And, if you’re looking for Chipotle Chili Powder, you can always order from Penzeys.

    alec: Thank you! I hope you give it a try.

  18. beth Says:

    I have been checking out your blog for about 3 months now. I have saved a few recipes, but this is the first one I tried. It was FANTASTIC. I had never used either the paprika, or chipotle powder. Love them.Can’t wait to use them in other recipes. Thanks we really enjoyed this.

  19. Polly Says:

    Great recipe. My boyfriend is a tough sell on soup that is not cream-based, and after tasting it, he asked if it could be put in the regular rotation…I think staring down sprinkles of bacon helped!

  20. beth: I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I find myself using smoked paprika more & more. I love it.

    Polly: Yes, bacon can be very persuasive. Sounds like you’ve had a tasty weekend!

  21. whitneyinchicago Says:

    Kristin-I made the chowder (for the 3rd time) to freeze up to enjoy during the winter. Thanks so much for this recipe. I went in the Spice House today for some ginger powder and found the right Chili powder! Now I have a good excuse to make it again before Corn leaves the market.

  22. whitney: I’m glad you found the chipotle chili powder. WE actually had this again last night. As good as I remembered. I need to make a big batch for the freezer before the corn disappears too.

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