My Dad loved hot soup — all year ’round. A bowl (or two) of potato soup or oyster stew was the perfect meal for him. Pop had one quirk about any soup and that was he wanted it served hot — very hot. At picnics and block parties, Dad chowed down on steaming hot bean soup right from the kettle hanging over the fire while others stood around, Styrofoam cup and white plastic soup spoon in hand, blowing on it frantically so they could take a taste.
While Mom was quite familiar with Dad’s preference in how hot any soup should be served, many restaurants and diners were not. Throughout the years, I remember several instances in which he received a cup of soup that he sent back “to be warmed up”.
I never asked why he wanted soup so hot, something I regret today. I highly suspect it had to do with years of working underground as a bootleg miner in the dank, damp, cold search for Anthracite. I believe the soup — the hotter the better — warmed him up after a day inside the mines.
My Dad also loved fresh corn on the cob almost as much as soup. Dad waited all year long for fresh corn season to arrive in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. Blessed by an abundance of farmers’ markets and roadside stands bursting with fresh produce in the area surrounding my hometown, it was not unusual for us to have fresh corn at several meals each week in the summer.
Dad’s love of corn on the cob went back to childhood. He often reminisced on how he and his friends used to sneak into the edge of a farmers’ small corn field and pick some ears of corn. Sure that they were getting away with their shenanigans, they would head to a pond at the edge of town. There, they would wrap the corn in water-soaked burlap and steam it in the husks over embers of a fire. Once cooked, they peeled back the husks and ate like kings. There was no salt, no butter, no fuss — just some of the best tasting corn they’d ever had.
Decades later, my Pop came across the farmer at a local fire company’s annual picnic. Pop decided to fess up to what they used to do as kids in the 30’s and 40’s in the farmer’s corn patch. The old man let out a hearty belly laugh and said to Dad, “I knew what you kids did! Every year I planted a few extra rows just for you!”
Given my Dad’s affection for soup and fresh corn, it is no surprise this marriage of both became one of his favorite dishes over the years. My late husband, James, was a soup fan just like Dad (but he preferred it served at a “normal” temperature). So suffice to say over the years I have made this fresh corn chowder a lot. I did not get the “soup-lover” gene from Pop to the degree he had it, but corn chowder is definitely one of my favorites, too.
I prefer to cook the potatoes separately in chicken stock or salted water then add them to the corn chowder when finishing. I do it that way because Mom did it that way and that’s a good enough reason for me. Sometimes, I simply skip adding potatoes as my mood at the time dictates..
I like to embellish each serving with bite-sized pieces of crispy fried bacon on top. This soup, like most, hits peak flavor the following day, but both my Dad and husband could never wait that long to have some. Freezing this soup is not advised due to the dairy content and the potatoes (which can change texture).
This is a thin soup; if you prefer it thicker, mix equal parts melted butter and all-purpose flour together until smooth, then stir the paste into the soup until it reaches the desired thickness. This recipe is easily doubled.
Fresh Corn ChowderCourse: Main Dishes, SoupsCuisine: General, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
4 medium/large-sized ears fresh corn
1 pound red-skin potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
Low sodium chicken stock or water to cover potatoes
3 cups half and half
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely diced
3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
Chopped fresh parsley, chives, crumbled fried bacon as desired
- Place potato cubes in a pot, cover with low sodium chicken stock or salted water and cook until fork tender. Drain and set aside.
- Shuck corn, remove silk and cut kernels from cob into a wide bowl using a sharp knife. Use the dull side of the knife to scrape the pulp and corn milk (starch) from the cobs into the bowl.
- Place the half and half into a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low simmer. Keep warm.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and salt, and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, but not browned about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in corn and all the starches you scraped from the cob and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in warm half and half and cooked potatoes and bring to a simmer stirring frequently; the mixture will thicken slightly. (If you want it thicker, mix equal parts melted butter with all purpose flour until smooth and add to the chowder as desired.) Adjust seasonings to your taste. Serve hot, garnished with bacon, chives or parsley.
- Recipe can easily be doubled.