Comforting as ever, corn chowder is a food for the fall as the weather gets cooler. And though it's easy enough to make a delicious corn chowder with lots of heavy cream and flour, I was more interested to see how this recipe—more of a soup than a chowder—from Rick Bayless would turn out. Instead of cream and flour, it's thickened with corn starch and the starch from the puréed corn kernels. It works—while the recipe is made with just milk, it has the silky mouthfeel of something with a lot more fat in it.
The Mexican twist here is also interesting, which is the addition of roasted poblano chiles. They pair well with the relatively bland taste of creamy corn, adding some needed kick and smokiness. To make this a full meal, Bayless calls for cubes of chicken breast or shrimp; I used some leftover shredded chicken and it worked wonderfully. And though Bayless doesn't mention it at all, I couldn't help but eat it next to buttered, freshly baked cornbread.
- 1 large fresh poblano chile
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 1 small white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 cups corn kernels, cut from about 5 cobs or frozen
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 quart milk
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or about 3/4 pound leftover chicken
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro for garnish
- Avocado pieces (optional)
Roast the poblano directly on the open flame of a stovetop or under a broiler until charred and blackened all over, 5-10 minutes depending on method. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel until cool enough to handle.
In the meantime, heat the oil over medium heat in a 3-quart saucepan and add the garlic and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Transfer to a food processor along with the corn, cornstarch, and 1 1/2 cups of the milk. Process into a purée and transfer back to the saucepan, straining out the corn kernel skins if desired. Bring to a simmer, whisking frequently.
When the chile is cooled somewhat, rub off the blackened skins, pull out the stem and seeds, and rinse to complete the job. Cut into 1/4-inch strips or pieces, then stir into the simmering soup along with the chicken and remaining milk. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, if necessary, stirring as you go. Serve with sprinkled cilantro and avocado, if desired.