Corn-Potato Chowder

Based loosely on a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, this chowder has layers and layers of savory, smokey, toasty, umami-laden flavors. It’s amazing. The one jalapeño adds subtle smokiness and no heat; if you want heat, add another pepper.

This is also a very forgiving recipe—it can be made vegetarian or vegan by using vegetable stock, leaving out the bacon, doubling the mushrooms, and using soy milk instead of cream. Or if you have nightshade allergies, use parsnips instead of potatoes and skip the jalapeño pepper. You can even skip the cream entirely, and the result will still be completely delicious.

Corn-Potato Chowder
8 servings

8 ears of corn (or 5 cups frozen kernels)
2 Parmesan rinds (about 4 ounces; optional, but adds terrific umami)
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup mixed dried mushrooms
2 sprigs thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
8 cups organic low-sodium chicken broth 
5 tablespoons unsalted Kerrygold butter, room temperature
Freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 ounces thick-cut pasture-raised bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (peeled, if desired)
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, white and palest-green parts only, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced (toss the top into the stock)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (use rubber gloves)
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons all-purpose organic flour
2 cups heavy cream (pasture-raised)

Cut kernels from cobs and place in a large bowl. Place cobs in a medium pot  (if using frozen corn, add 1 cup kernels instead), then add Parmesan rinds, mushroom stems, dried mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf, 2 teaspoons salt (Note: if using sea salt, use only 1.5 tsp.), the dark green leek top, and 8 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth is fragrant and reduced by half, 40–50 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl; discard solids and set broth aside.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add corn kernels (approx. 4 cups fresh or frozen), season generously with salt and white pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is tender and juices have evaporated and browned on the bottom of the pot, 12–15 minutes, being careful not to burn anything. Transfer corn to a medium bowl.

Add white wine to pot and cook, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is syrupy, about 2 minutes. Scrape into bowl with remaining corn.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the same pot over medium, and cook bacon until golden brown and fat has rendered, about 6 minutes—watch carefully; don’t overcook.

Add potatoes, shallots, leek, garlic, chopped mushrooms, marjoram, and smoked paprika. —>Hold off on the jalapeño pepper for now. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened but haven’t taken on any color, 12–15 minutes. (Note: If your bacon hasn’t left enough fat to cook the vegetables, add more butter.) Add the minced jalapeño and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook until nutty and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add reserved broth, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fork-tender, 10–15 minutes. Add cream and the corn, and cook, stirring, until chowder has thickened, 5–10 minutes. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.