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Corn Chowder with Red Pepper Cream

Using both yellow and white kernels makes this summertime chowder particularly attractive. The red pepper cream spices each portion without overwhelming the natural sweetness of the fresh corn. Ladle the chowder into cups for an informal garden party or into bowls for a sit-down lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

For the red pepper cream:

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 Tbs. fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 Tbs. medium-hot pure ground chili such
      as pasilla, or 1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. heavy cream

For the chowder:

  • 1 Tbs. chopped salt pork or 2 bacon slices,
      chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 or 5 red new potatoes, about 3/4 lb. total,
      diced
  • 2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups milk, heated
  • Kernels from 6 ears of corn, preferably a
      mixture of white and yellow

Directions:

To make the red pepper cream, preheat a broiler. Halve and seed the bell peppers and place, cut sides down, on a broiler pan. Broil about 4 inches from the heat source until the skins are evenly blackened and blistered. Remove from the broiler, drape the peppers loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes, then peel away the skins. Coarsely chop the peppers and place in a blender. Add the oregano, ground chili, olive oil and salt. Puree the mixture, drizzling in the cream. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

To make the chowder, in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the salt pork, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the salt pork is crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crisp bits to a plate and reserve for another use. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the celery and onion to the fat in the pan and sauté until nearly translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.

Increase the heat to high and add the broth. Bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Add the potatoes, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper and return to a boil. Then cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the potatoes are just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the corn and simmer just until the corn is tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls or cups. Top each serving with a spoonful of the red pepper cream.
Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Casual Outdoor Dining, by Georgeanne Brennan (Time-Life Books, 1998).