Sweet Corn Chowder and Friday Suppers

For me, this soup is the ultimate in comfort food. It is smooth and creamy, heavy on the carbs and sweetened by the corn. My grandmother also liked it for its ease of preparation—especially on meatless Fridays.

When I was a young adult and still residing at my widowed grandmother’s home, we shared busy though rarely hectic lives. Mine was filled with work, college, and the occasional date. She still had a hand in the business owned by her son, which she and her husband began, and went daily to attend to the books. Frequently she went to visit her friends, most of whom were less able-bodied than she, with her closest friend, Mable, in a nursing facility. There were also her weekly drives for a visit with her sister, Helen. Our Sundays were fully a day of rest with Mass always on Saturday night.

No matter how busy our days, we both made time for the evening meal. Sometimes that meal had to be quickly prepared.

This soup was a frequent go-to supper. Depending on the day it could be readied in as short as fifteen minutes using leftover potatoes, which were almost always available in the fridge—second shelf, clear glass bowl covered in a plaid plastic cover.

We both loved potatoes and cooked several of them at a time. I remember many times coming home to a kettle of recently boiled potatoes still warm on the stove. Beneath the lid would be a nest of egg-shaped new potatoes, red skinned Pontiacs, or small quartered russets in their dark scruffy skins.

Snatching one from the cluster and breaking it in half with my thumbs, I would roll it in the dish of butter that always sat on the table, and pop it into my mouth. Pressing it hard with my tongue against the back of my teeth, the soft buttery orb would fill my mouth with its earthy flavor. By then my grandmother would have set aside her rosary and made her way into the kitchen to greet me. With mock consternation she’d slap my buttery potato-flaked hands, scolding me to “Stay out of that kettle. Those potatoes are for…”—a salad, soup, or dinner.

When time permitted we would make this soup from fresh ingredients, cutting unpeeled potatoes and if it were late summer, scrape the kernels from ears of corn instead of using frozen or canned. The batches were often doubled or tripled, some for freezing, but mostly for sharing with Mable or Helen who were as fond of this soup as we were.

Corn Chowder

Boil in 2 c. of water:

2 tbl. butter
1 medium, about a cup, of diced sweet onion
½ c. diced celery, use the leaves too
¼ c. fresh parsley (dried flakes really do not work well in this soup)
4-5 medium potatoes, chopped
 

When potatoes are tender add to the stock:

16 oz. can cream style corn
16 oz. can whole corn, drained, or 1-1 ½ c. frozen or fresh
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
 

Simmer until heated through, and serve. Garnish with chives, parsley, or bits of green onion.

The flavor and texture of this soup can be subtly altered depending on the produce you use. New potatoes have a more chestnut flavor and make for a thinner broth because they still have a fair amount of pectin in them and don’t break down. Yukon Gold’s are sweeter in taste, especially if refrigerated, and create a golden-colored soup. Fresh home grown potatoes are fuller in flavor with a deep and rich earthy taste. Baking potatoes, like Russets, are higher in starch and thicken a soup.

Boiling or new potatoes remain fairly intact and will need to be lightly smashed into the stock. I often take an immersion blender and break down just a small portion of the potatoes to thicken the soup.

Using whole canned corn is perfectly fine but more flavor is added when using frozen. To add exceptional sweetness use corn shelled from the cob.

(Image by Voraorn Ratanakorn, courtesy shutterstock.com)