Often when I am trying to think of something to make for dinner, I start with a particular ingredient… like my very own Iron Chef challenge for one! Tonight’s secret ingredient? Corn.
We picked up our CSA share today, and it contained four ears of corn. Unfortunately, there has been an issue with earworms on the corn. That happens sometimes with organic produce. I’ll take a few bugs over harsh chemicals any day. There were a few bad spots on the corn that needed to be cut out. No big deal to me, but not exactly grilled corn on the cob material.
As I was taking stock of the other food in my pantry, I was reminded of a few yams that needed to be used. Suddenly I had a two ingredient challenge on my hands. Given the two ingredients I was working with, my mind instantly turned to corn chowder. I love smokey flavors with sweet potaotes and yams, so I decided to throw in some chipotle peppers and cumin. I was flying by the seat of my pants the whole way, but it turned out to be one of the best dishes I have made in a while. My husband was raving about it all through dinner, which always makes me feel good!
Before getting to the chowder recipe, let me share another one of my tips with you!
I like bacon, but I rarely use a whole pound of it when I am cooking. I will often buy a pound of bacon for a recipe that only calls for a few slices. I don’t use it regularly enough to keep it in my fridge. Instead, I put the remaining bacon in a zipper bag and keep it in the freezer. Whenever I need some diced bacon for a recipe, I simply pull out the frozen bacon and slice off the amount that I need. I find it easier to dice up the bacon while it is frozen… and it can be thrown right into a skillet without thawing! It’s quick, easy, and I always have bacon on hand.
Sweet and Smokey Corn Chowder
- 4-5 slices (about 1/2 cup frozen) bacon, diced (for a vegetarian version, leave this out and use olive oil instead of the rendered bacon fat)
- 2 yams, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 small (or 1 large) poblano peppers, seeded and diced
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 4 small ears corn, steamed and cut off of the cob
- 2 chipotles in adobo, minced (use 1 for less spice)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Kosher salt
- Agave syrup
- 1 large heirloom tomato, seeded and diced
- 1 avocado, diced
Heat a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the diced bacon, and cook until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and transfer it to a bowl, leaving the rendered bacon fat in the bottom of the pan. (For a vegetarian version, skip this step and simply heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the dutch oven.)
Add the diced yams to the fat, and cook for about 5 minutes to give the yams a head start. Then, add the diced onions and poblano peppers. Continue to cook for an additional 4-5 minutes, until all of the vegetables are soft. If the potatoes start to stick to the pan, add a little bit of olive oil while cooking.
Add the milk and the half and half to the yam, onion, and pepper mixture. Use an immersion blender to partially puree the softened vegetable mixture to the desired texture. I typically leave my soups a bit chunky, pureeing just enough to make the soup base thick.
Reduce the heat and bring the soup to a simmer. Add the corn, diced chipotles, and cumin and stir to combine. Season to taste with the salt. Add a little bit of agave syrup to taste if the soup is a bit too spicy. The agave will help to cut some of the spice from the chipotle peppers.
Reserve some of the diced tomato, and toss it with the diced avocado in a bowl. Add the remaining diced tomato to the soup. Continue to simmer for about 5 more minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls (this will serve 4-6), and top with some of the avocado and tomato mixture. Sprinkle with the crispy bacon.