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This rich chowder is loaded with corn, potatoes and onions. Bacon lends a smoky flavor; leave it out if you’re a purist. Also, use more or less milk, depending on how substantial you like your chowder; using 4 cups of milk or cream will yield something that’s more soup than chowder; using less than 3 cups will tip the mixture from chowder to stew.
6 to 8 slices bacon
1 medium-to-large yellow onion (about 8 ounces), diced (about 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium boiling potatoes (about 14 to 16 ounces total), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
16 ounces corn kernels (fresh or frozen preferred)
water or broth
3 cups (24 ounces) half and half, milk, or evaporated milk*
3/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon thyme (optional)
ground black pepper to taste
*I always use evaporated milk; it’s handy to keep on hand, and makes a wonderful, creamy chowder.
In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan, cook the bacon till it’s crisp. Remove the bacon from the fat and set it aside to cool; reserve 1/4 cup of the fat (returning it to the pan), and discard the rest.
Saute the diced onion in the reserved bacon fat, cooking till it’s beginning to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Spread the diced potatoes atop the onion in the pan; add water or broth just to barely cover the potatoes. (When I made this chowder last week, using an 8-inch diameter saucepan, I needed 1 3/4 cups of water to cover the potatoes.) Spread the fresh or frozen corn kernels evenly atop the potatoes; the water doesn’t need to cover the corn.
Heat the mixture to a gentle boil, cover the pan partially, and cook till the potatoes are tender, 12 to 18 minutes (depending on the size of the potato chunks). At this point, the corn will be thawed/cooked, too. Stir in the cream, milk, or evaporated milk, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the thyme (if you’re using it). Stir to blend, and taste for seasoning, adding additional salt, if necessary, and/or ground black pepper to taste. Heat the chowder to a very bare simmer, then turn the heat off, and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, with crumbled bacon (or a pat of butter) atop each serving (see “Notes” below). Yield: 8 cups, about 6 servings.
If you don’t like bacon, or just prefer not to use it, sauté the onion in a mixture of butter and vegetable oil.
If you include the bacon, you have the option of serving it as a garnish, as directed; or crumbling it and stirring it into the soup just prior to its 10-minute rest period. As a garnish, the bacon will remain quite crisp; if you stir it in, it’ll soften and become part of the mélange of vegetables.
Keep in mind that the amount of salt in the chowder will change depending on whether or not you use bacon. If you do use bacon, be sure to taste the chowder with a bit of bacon while taste-testing for salt.