By Meghan Gourley
Ubiquitous as it is, it’s easy to forget the subtle side of corn. Chowder—here with cheddar and scallions—reminds us that summer’s favorite crop is versatile. The key to this chowder is finding the freshest summer corn you can, and shaving it off the cob like a pro: spare nothing. Get as close to the cob with the blade of your knife as you can. Work slowly and carefully, and don’t waste anything—the meatiness of the kernels is what makes this soup so hearty. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.
Corn Chowder with Cheddar
Time: About 1 ¼ hours
Makes: 4 servings
6 ears fresh corn
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 scallions, white and green parts separated and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 cups whole milk, or more as needed
1. Shuck the corn, remove the silk, and cut off the stem end so the cob has a flat surface. Then stand each ear up on a cutting board and scrape off the kernels with a chef’s knife. Transfer the kernels to a bowl as you work.
2. Put the corncobs and 4 cups water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the water bubbles gently. Cover and cook, checking to make sure the cobs are always covered with water, until the liquid is quite cloudy, about 30 minutes. Discard the corncobs and transfer 3 cups of the broth to a medium bowl or saucepan. (Save the rest if you like; no need to wipe out the pot.)
3. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the butter. When it melts and foams, add the white parts of the scallions and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 1 minute. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to turn and the flour no longer smells raw, just a couple of minutes. Then add the cheese and stir until it just starts to melt, less than a minute.
4. Add the reserved corncob broth and milk and raise the heat to medium-high. Stir or whisk constantly until the flour is dissolved and the soup starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the soup bubbles gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender and the soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Add a little more milk if you like a thinner soup. Taste, adjust the seasoning, garnish with the scallion greens, and serve.
The kernels tend to fly everywhere unless you use deliberate knife strokes. You have two choices: Use a downward scraping motion with a chef’s knife or try a sawing motion with a serrated knife—neither way is better; it all depends on what feels comfortable to you.
Corncobs add a sweetness to the soup and intensify the corn flavor. You can make this soup with frozen kernels (figure about 4 cups), but use 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock instead of the water or the soup will be bland.
Other cheese to try: Semisweet soft cow’s cheese like Gruyere or Emmental melts beautifully and adds a nutty creaminess. Parmesan or manchego gives you some sharp and pleasant grittiness. A hard or soft goat cheese will add tang. Or go in a totally different direction and use a cheese that doesn’t melt, like feta or queso fresco. Instead of cooking it with the flour in step 3, wait until the soup is ready and stir it into the pot right before serving. In all cases, use the same amount: grated if hard, crumbled if soft.