2000s Recipes + Menus

Kemp’s Creamy Creamless Chile Corn Chowder

  • Active time:35 min
  • Start to finish:45 min
September 2009
Corn chowder doesn’t have to be ivory pale with milk or cream to taste creamy. The meaty pulp of reconstituted dried chiles gives this clay-red soup the requisite lush mouthfeel and body. If you think the chiles will overpower the sweetness of the corn, relax. Ancho chiles, which are readily available in supermarkets, are more fruity than spicy. If you can’t find anchos, go for New Mexico chiles, but be aware they will add a bit more heat. 

Learn about the origins of this recipe in our series The Home Cook.
  • 6 ears corn, brown tassels trimmed off, then shucked, reserving silk
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fat (bacon fat, lard, unsalted butter, or oil)
  • 2 dried ancho chiles (see note above), wiped clean
  • 3 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 1 lb boiling potatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Accompaniment:

    chopped cilantro; lime wedges; hot sauce
  • Cut kernels from cobs, then scrape pulp from cobs with back of knife and reserve corn (with pulp) and cobs separately. Break cobs in half or thirds and combine with corn silk, water, and 1/2 tsp salt in a 4-qt pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Strain corn broth through a sieve into a bowl.
  • While broth is simmering, cook onion in fat with 1/4 tsp salt in a 5-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Slit chiles lengthwise, then discard stem, seeds, and ribs. Heat a dry heavy skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until hot, then toast chiles 1 at a time, opened flat, turning and pressing with tongs, until more pliable and slightly changed in color, about 30 seconds.
  • Transfer chiles to a blender with 2 cups hot corn broth and let soak, covered, until softened, about 20 minutes.
  • While chiles soak, add garlic to heated dry skillet and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until blackened in spots, about 4 minutes. Add garlic to blender.
  • Peel and dice potatoes.
  • When chiles are softened, add 1 cup corn kernels and purée until smooth.
  • Reheat onion mixture in pot until hot, then add chile purée and cook over medium heat, stirring, 3 minutes (mixture will spatter). Add potatoes and remaining corn broth and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are just tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in remaining corn kernels and simmer until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, thinning with water if necessary.
  • Just before serving, stir in cilantro, lime juice, and salt to taste.
Cooks’ note: Chowder, without cilantro or lime juice, can be made 4 days ahead and chilled. Reheat gently, thinning with water.
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