Cook-all-damn-day Corn Chowder

Michelle wanted to make a dessert. Perhaps a peach crisp with the few shriveling fruits left in our crisper, maybe a Normandy-nearing tart with some of the funky-looking apples Steve picked up on Saturday’s market run. Our weekly trip was shorter than usual, and she felt the entire day was ahead of her. Then she decided to make this Roasted Corn Chowder with Garlic and Herb Butter from David Tanis’ Corn, part of the “Country Garden Cookbook” series. She’d made this recipe before, writing “good” and “add garlic” and a few other notations alongside the call for bell peppers, potatoes, corn and several other things. Oddly, there was no indication that the recipe would take hours of uninterrupted prep.

Jeeves, “helping” with the kitchen prep.

Of course it is quite likely that preparation time would have been much shorter if Michelle hadn’t decided to make her own vegetable stock, including the fresh corn cobs along with a freezer bag of frozen veg bits we hold back for stock-making occasions. And for some reason the compound butter didn’t cooperate, taking longer than usual. Plus, a layer of even-worse-than-usual August heat combined with near 100% humidity called for frequent stops in our kitchen, always the hottest room in the house. Steve popped in occasionally, husking corn, peeling potatoes, straining the stock and suggesting Michelle make a dish of crackling cornbread to go with the chowder. Mostly, he stuck to playing video games and watching the Olympics in a cooler room while Michelle filled first the dishwasher and then our largest sink with pots, pans, dishes and other detritus.

Eventually, dinner was served, and we enjoyed a lovely meal made from an array of ultra-local ingredients, making a decent dent in our farm share stores. After all that effort, though, there was sadly no dessert. Steve, however, did clean the kitchen and pantry today in penance, a slightly sweet ending that will have to do.


(adapted from David Tanis’ Corn: A Country Garden Cookbook)

  • 2 c. corn kernels (from approximately 4-6 ears of fresh corn)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 c. finely diced peppers (mostly bell peppers of different colors + a few jalapeños or other hot peppers)
  • 1 or 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 TB butter, softened
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 TB chives, finely chopped
  • 1 TB basil, finely chopped
  • 1 TB parsley, finely chopped
  • Juice and zest of a lime
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Salt & pepper

Make compound butter:  Mash ingredients together in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  Drain off whatever lime juice fails to incorporate. Scrape the butter mixture onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap.  Form into a cylinder about 1-1/2″ in diameter.  Refrigerate.

Toss corn kernels with some olive oil.  Place in a pie pan or other flat pan.  Roast under the broiler, tossing occasionally, for about 10 minutes until browned in places.  Set aside.

In a soup pot, caramelize onion in some olive oil, stirring occasionally.  Add peppers, thyme, bay leaf and garlic.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring.  Add potatoes and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for a couple of minutes, then reduce heat.  Simmer gently for about 10 minutes.  Add 3/4 of the cooked corn kernels.  Simmer for another 10 minutes or so until potatoes are tender.

While soup is simmering, purée remaining 1/4 of corn kernels in a blender with a bit of the stock.  Add to soup.

Season soup with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems.

Serve soup in wide bowls.  Float a slice of compound butter on each serving.


    • We definitely need to do a Southern food post! This was an adaptation of one from an old Bill Neal cookbook. I think it was 3 parts cornmeal to 1 part flour. When we were making it, I said to Steve: “Rona wouldn’t be using a recipe at all!”

      • rrwriter

        I am, though, now. Using recipes. Trying to find ones that reliably produce what I like and others either like or tolerate. I have been stuck for a good while on the South Carolina coastal cornbread the NYT named “best” in 1989. Its sour buttermilky taste and moistness please me. http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/3544/The-Best-Corn-Bread.html

        But sometimes it sticks in my well seasoned skillets, so I’m also thinking it must not be quite perfect. No flour, though. No sugar. A purist cornbread, all of which could come from one’s own farm, except for the leavening and salt.

    • Yeah, wasn’t that nice of him to stop playing video games for a few minutes to help? The soup has been good for work lunches over the last few days (yes, I worked on Sunday … ugh!). And you are the one to thank for the idea of putting the veg scraps in the freezer for stock. Thanks!

    • I know… but I think it’s like Indians eating curry in blazing temps. As a Southerner, you just get sort of used to it. Though this year has been particularly bad.

    • Thanks so much. I’m always glad when I can come up with something that uses multiple things from the farm share (to avoid having very, very expensive chicken feed).

  1. As much as I do enjoy dessert, having someone clean my kitchen is so much more desirable. Using roasted corn to make this chowder, as well as adding caramelized onions, would bring so much more flavor to the final dish. Great idea!

    • Of course you would. 🙂 Actually, I’ve been thinking of checking out the lobster situation given the surplus. Odd as this may sound, Louisville has a huge “pound” out at the airport full of Maine lobsters, because we’re a big UPS hub.

  2. We always make corn chowder from grilled corn leftover from the night before. Great post. Anything by David Tanis is guaranteed to be good, if perhaps sometimes taxing. You executed well, under extreme conditions. He should give you a medal. Ken

    “Oddly, there was no mention of the hours of uninterrupted prep.” Ha!

  3. I love the addition of the compound butter, and this looks like a particularly good one. I usually make classic boring corn chowders with milk and cream, but I like your (healthier) version. Second call for the skillet cornbread!

  4. wow definitely looks liek it’s not just going to be your run-of-the-mill bowl of corn chowder! It’s a very american thing perhaps, as I’ve never had cornbread and chowder here in the uk, really want some good hearty southern food in me, so will have to do this myself then! 😉

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