I was joking Tuesday morning on a-social-media-site-not-to-be-named about the figurative switch that’s flipped on Labor Day: suddenly, food blogs and recipe sites go from tomatoes, zucchini, peaches and corn to pumpkin, cinnamon and apples. Though it was chillier Tuesday morning, my market and your garden didn’t mirror such a drastic shift. I love pumpkin and apples, too, but I haven’t had my fill of fresh, sweet local corn yet! And the Hatch chiles have only been around for a few weeks, at least where I am. And so, in an effort to gracefully embrace the last few weeks of summer, cool evenings and all, I created this “shoulder season” chowder, with elements of a classic corn chowder and surprising heat from roasted chiles and chili powder. It’s wonderful. The balance of sweet corn, spicy chiles, smoky chili powder and cooling cream is addictive. Though I usually suggest substituting whole milk for some or all of the cream in soup recipes, here I would say to go with cream. Indulge. I was tempted to dollop some sour cream on my bowl just to take the creaminess to another level. As you curl your hands around a steaming bowl of this fragrant chowder, think about all the pumpkin-y, apple-y goodness that’s right around the corner, but enjoy the last weeks of this gorgeous summer.
Hatch Chile Corn Chowder (serves 4)
- 2 fresh Hatch chiles*, or 1/4 c. pre-roasted Hatch chiles
- 1 T. canola oil
- 1 lb. red potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
- 4 ears of corn, cut off the cob
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- black pepper
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 4 c. stock: chicken, vegetable or corn
- 2/3 c. cream
- kosher salt
Start by roasting the chiles if they’re fresh. Here’s the way I do it: heat your oven to 400 degrees and place the washed chiles right on the oven rack, or on a piece of tin foil, or a clean cookie sheet. Cook, turning every 10 mins. or so, until the skin has blistered and is visibly separating from the pepper. This takes 25-40 mins. depending on the size of the chiles. (You can grill chiles, too, or cook them under a broiler, or buy them pre-roasted. Roasted chiles freeze well; consider making/buying extra for future pots of chowder.) Remove the blistered chiles to a clean paper bag and roll the top to close, or put them in a glass or ceramic bowl covered by a plate. Allow the chiles to steam and cool for 15-20 mins. and then, when they’re cool enough to handle, carefully remove the skin, which should almost fall off on it’s own. Remove the stem, and seeds if you wish, and chop the chiles roughly. Set aside.
In a stockpot or similar large pot, heat the canola oil. Add the potato pieces (no need to peel unless you want to) and cook for 3-5 mins. Don’t stir too often; you want the potatoes to sear/brown slightly, though they won’t get much color. Add the corn, stir to combine and cook for another 3 mins. Sprinkle with chili powder and a few generous cracks of black pepper and stir to coat the potatoes and corn evenly. Add the garlic and 1 c. stock (estimated) to the pot and bring to a slow boil, stirring gently to release any bits of potato or corn that may be stuck to the bottom. Add another cup and do the same, repeating until all four cups of broth are in the pot. Add the reserved roasted chiles and reduce the heat to low; just barely simmer the chowder for at least 30 mins. and up to an hour. The longer you cook, the more the broth will be infused with chile flavors. Cooking for longer than an hour may begin to break down the potatoes, so keep an eye on the pot.
At this point, you can pause the cooking process and refrigerate the chowder base for up to two days. (One of the best things I learned from my Mom: package the chowder base and deliver it to a friend with a pint of cream, some bread or biscuits and a jar of pickles as a housewarming or welcome baby gift, or just as a nice thing to do.) When you are ready to finish the chowder, reheat it gently if it has been in the fridge, add the cream to the warm base and stir to combine. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately; I always accompany chowder with homemade bread & butter or mustard pickles and biscuits.
*Hatch chiles are from New Mexico and not actually a variety; rather, the term encompasses several types of chiles ranging in heat from mild to very hot. I use a mix of medium and hot in my kitchen. If you are unsure which kind of Hatch chiles are in your market and nervous about an overly spicy chowder, you can substitute poblanos, Anaheims or even jalapenos to approximate the flavor. Make sure not to take all the spice out; the dish won’t be the same.