I’ve made corn chowder several times from various recipes. I was never very happy with it because it turned out so bland, high-carb (both corn and potatoes!), and high-dairy; it just made me feel drowsy without seeming like a fully satisfying meal. When I go to the trouble of making soup from scratch, I want it to be the main dish!
My son asked for corn chowder again recently when I was pondering how to use some of a large bag of frozen organic corn. I decided to see what I could work out incorporating the other vegetables we happened to have, adding shiitake mushrooms for protein and other nutrients and more interesting flavor, and minimizing the dairy products.
This turned out very well! Browning the vegetables before adding the broth enhances their flavor, compared to other corn chowder recipes where you just boil the vegetables.
The one thing I’ll change next time is using more than 3 mushrooms, so I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect that. Use even more if you want a noticeable mushroom flavor rather than just umami. If you have fresh rather than dried mushrooms, skip the soaking step and add them along with the carrots and peppers; you probably won’t need to add water because the mushrooms will release a lot of water as they cook.
Other vegetables could be substituted for carrots, red pepper, and kale–use what you have!
To make about 10 cups of soup, you will need:
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 large onion or 1 small onion
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 large carrots
- 1 red pepper
- 3 cups corn kernels
- 1/2 cup shredded kale
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp tarragon
- 1 Tbsp parsley
- salt, black pepper, white pepper, and/or hot sauce to taste
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups yogurt or sour cream
Soak the mushrooms in the boiling water. You’ll see that the water gradually takes on some of the color of the mushrooms.
Dice the onion. Put it and olive oil in a large soup pot. Start it on high heat to warm up the entire bottom of the pot; as soon as you hear sizzling noises, turn down to medium-low. Stir occasionally while you prepare the other vegetables.
If any of your vegetables are frozen, check whether they are stuck together in a big lump–if they are, they’ll need to go into the pot before raw veggies (other than onions) and you’ll keep them on low heat until they’ve melted enough to break up; then add the raw veggies. (My corn and kale were frozen but moving loosely in the bags, so it was easy to pour out the amount I needed, and they thawed quickly when mixed into hot food.)
Peel and dice carrots. Core and dice pepper. Remove corn from cob, if necessary. Shred kale.
When onions have browned lightly, push them to one side of the pot, add carrots at the other side, scoop onions onto top of the carrots, and add peppers on the empty side. Turn heat up to medium. After about 1 minute, stir in garlic. Keep cooking and stirring occasionally until carrots and peppers are lightly browned.
Mix in corn and kale. Cook, stirring occasionally, until kale gets brighter green, about 2 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pull mushrooms out of water (do not discard the water) and dice them very small.
Add mushrooms and their soaking water, broth, lemon juice, and seasonings. Turn heat up to high, cover, and bring to a boil. Then turn it down and simmer 15 minutes. Taste a sample to make sure veggies are cooked as soft as you want them.
Use an immersion blender to make a smoother soup, if desired. (I didn’t.)
Add yogurt/sour cream 1/2 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly, until soup reaches desired creaminess. Simmer another 5 minutes.
Hungry teenagers may want to melt some cheese into their soup. My son used provolone and added hot sauce.