Decided on a big pot of corn chowder. I used my Lodge cast iron Dutch oven for this.
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 large white potatoes, peeled, and cubed
6 ears of corn, kernels cut off, cobs reserved
1 tsp dry thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
Shucking your corn. I recently found this YouTube video on shucking corn, and wow, does it work great! Here's what you get from six ears.
By the way, the sanest way to cut corn off the cob is to lay the ear down on the cutting board, and slice the kernels off one side, then rotate and repeat until all the kernels are removed. I've seen all sorts of nonsense about how to cut kernels off corncobs, but every one of them keeps the ears standing upright. Dumbest way to do it! Rotate the ear and lay it down on the cutting board, for goodness sakes! A serrated knife works best.
Cut up the bacon, and saute it in the Dutch oven. I added a few more tablespoons of bacon fat (which I keep in a tightly closed container in the fridge). When it's crisp, remove it and set it aside.
Saute the onions, celery, and garlic in the bacon fat until tender.
Add cut-up potatoes.
Add the corn. Mix well. Add thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Remember, you're seasoning bland potatoes and corn, and you're just about to add water, so taste carefully for seasoning. I also tend to go heavy on black pepper in chowders -- it always tastes right.
Here's the assembled ingredients, just prior to adding corn stock.
Yes, you heard me right -- corn stock. Instead of using just water, or chicken stock (which I think detracts from the corn and bacon flavors), I simmer the trimmed ears of corn in water for about 20 minutes. You'll need a good 6 cups of stock for this recipe.
Add the stock to the Dutch oven, bring to a simmer, cover, and let simmer slowly for about 45 minutes. Turn off the heat, and add the cream. Stir well. Taste carefully for seasoning. Serve immediately, or the next day, when it undoubtedly will be much better.
N.B. This chowder is not wallpaper-paste thick. In fact, it's rather watery -- which is the way it should be. You should have no reason to add flour to this soup to thicken it. The potatoes and corn have enough starch in them to thicken it to the proper consistency.
Variation -- Add a few cans of chopped clams, juice and all, in the last 5 minutes of cooking, and you have clam-corn chowder. Or add some cooked crab meat. Crab-corn chowder.
Variation -- Add a cup of fresh tomatoes (peeled, seeded, diced) towards the end of cooking. Gives the soup a nice color, and a different, tangy taste. Not quite Manhattan style, but nice.
Variation -- Make the chowder vegetarian. Use either butter (or olive oil if you want it vegan)
instead of the bacon. Omit the cream if you want to keep it vegan.
As you can see from the variations, this recipe is a base upon which many, many kinds of soup can be based. If you leave out the corn, and add the clams, you have clam chowder. Add fish in the last few minutes of cooking, and use fish stock or clam juice as your liquid, and you have fish chowder.