We’re straddling seasons right now. August screams “summer!” to me while September shouts “fall!” and, though it’s still technically August, one foot seems to be firmly planted in each.
We’re soaking up the last bits of summer while also preparing for the school year. I made an inaugural school supply run with Caden and Brooklyn last weekend. It reminded me of my own days of school shopping (also at Target, also in the cardboard bins set up all the way in the back of the store, though without those fancy Twistable crayons) and I envisioned the years we have ahead of this particular tradition. We’ve practiced using lunch boxes and next week we’ll see their classroom and meet their teacher.
The kids still have a couple of things on their summer agenda: a movie night, to visit the children’s museum, a day at the State Fair. But for the most part, we’re summer-ed out. Just yesterday the kids splashed in the pool in the backyard, set up for one last summer hurrah. It didn’t last long. Not even a half hour before they were blue-lipped and shivering, “Can I go inside and put my regular clothes on?” Seventy-seven degrees just doesn’t feel the same at this time of year as it did in July.
I told Tyson to drain the pool, to completely deflate it and pack it away for next year. Part of me screamed, “Not yet! Too soon! What happened to the lazy days of June?” and the other part of me is entirely ready to move on to regular schedules and routines, no matter how much they might be changing for us this year.
The days have been cooler lately, a completely welcome change as far as I’m concerned. The highs, while they’re still near 80 during the warmest part of the day, dip down into the 50s at night. I’ve been cozying up at the end of the day in my favorite pair of joggers which have emerged from their summer hibernation. It’s my favorite way to end any day. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be any sort of cozy while wearing shorts.
This soup straddles the seasons in the same way we’ve been. It can hold its own as we feel the first hints of fall yet features an ingredient associated with the height of summer. You can eat a bowl of this out on your patio wrapped in a sweater - provided it’s a lightweight one. (At least here in the Midwest. I know you southerners are still sweltering.)
I often find traditional corn chowders to be too sweet, especially when using corn at the peak of the season. I mean, it’s grown to be sweet, and while I love a cob slathered with some butter, salt, and pepper on it’s own, that flavor feels off to me in a soup. The added spice here balances out the sweetness. So does the acid from the lime.
You can serve it with hearty bread to mop up all the goodness at the end. I prefer to eat it with tortilla chips and it basically becomes a dip. However you eat it, do it soon, before all the best summer sweet corn is gone.
(P.s. The kids still won’t eat soup, though Nolan will attempt it sometimes. I serve them a couple ears of corn, some chips, shredded cheese, fruit, and chicken nuggets and call it good.)
Southwest-style Corn Chowder
This chowder is basically a combination of this traditional corn chowder recipe and Smitten Kitchen’s elotes-style one. I pretty much mashed them together until I had what I consider to be the best of both worlds. And a San Antonio Margarita with a bowl of this never hurt anyone, either.
8 ears fresh sweet corn, preferably from the nearest Farmer’s Market, husked, silks removed, and kernels cut from the cob
2 Tablespoons butter
4-6 slices bacon, chopped (quantity depends on how thick they are…and how much you like bacon)
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 7-ounce can diced green chilies
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 Tablespoons flour
5 cups chicken stock
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into thin chunks (1/4 inch or so)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
Toppings (optional): shredded cheese, chopped chives or green onions, sour cream, sliced avocado, cilantro, a squeeze of lime (though this is not optional, in my opinion), and also don’t forget the bacon from earlier
Tortilla chips or bread, for serving
Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside until the very end to top your chowder.
Turn heat to medium-low and add onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is almost soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, chilies, and chili powder and cook for a minute or two more.
Add flour and stir together until it disappears and things kind of clump together. Cook another minute more, stirring frequently, to prevent sticking and remove any “flour-y” taste. Add chicken stock, corn, potatoes, and milk and bring to a steady simmer. (Not quite a boil: be careful with that milk!) Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender and corn is cooked through.
Add salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Finish with cream, stir thoroughly to combine, and let simmer until thickened slightly, about 2-3 minutes more.
To serve, ladle into bowls and top generously with chosen toppings. My personal preference is for bacon, sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, and a hefty dose of lime. Serve with tortilla chips on the side, or just use them to scoop everything up because chowder is essentially dip in a bowl.
Yes, cutting the kernels off the cob is a pain but I promise it’s worth it. Do not use the frozen stuff - it’s not at all the same. My best advice is to cut one end off the cob (so you’re working with a flat surface), set it inside a deep, wide bowl, and chop straight down - no sawing motion here, unless you like finding corn kernels all over your kitchen for the next several days.
You could also sub jalapenos for the diced green chilies. And add cayenne pepper to taste. Or take the amount of chili powder up or down. Definitely a personal preference on the spice level here.