Peering into my larder last night, tired after a long day skiing, I realized I had all the ingredients for the perfect comfort food, corn chowder. I'd put local sweet corn in my freezer last fall, and I had a few red potatoes, onions, and bacon.
I'm not sure I'd ever made it before. I seem to recall my roommates cooking some version of it years ago (sans bacon) during my vegetarian, group-house phase, and I'd only had it a few times since (happily, with bacon). So though I didn't know exactly how to proceed, the classic ingredients are so simple, and so canonical, it seemed like it would be hard to mess up. I consulted a recipe book midway through cooking to see whether I was missing something critical, like celery or thyme. I wasn't. Simple is better. Here's what I did.
Easy Corn Chowder
4 strips bacon (I used North Country Smokehouse maple cured bacon)
2 large onions, diced
3 medium red potatoes, diced
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
2-1/2 to 3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
salt and fresh ground black pepper
In a large shallow pot, cook the bacon strips on medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Pour off all but about 2 Tbs of fat from the pot and add the diced onions, cooking until golden. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom to incorporate.
Add the diced potatoes, bay leaf, and enough chicken stock to the pot to cover the potatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about ten minutes or until the potatoes start to get tender.
Chop the bacon and add it plus the corn kernels to the pot. You may need to add a little more stock, but go easy, since you'll be adding milk, too. The idea is to cook the vegetables in stock so the milk doesn't have to boil. Cover and continue to simmer while you make the roux.
In a separate small saucepan, melt 1 Tbs butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk the roux continuously until the flour starts to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Slowly add 1 cup of milk and continue whisking until thickened, about another 5 minutes.
Pour this white sauce into the soup pot, adding more milk until the soup is the consistency you want. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.