Corn Chowder with Tomato Relish and Crab

With the weather beginning to cooperate for much of the US, why are we considering soup for dinner? The time change means we are eating dinner when the sun is still mostly up. And the warmer weather heralds lighter fare or the first grilled meal of the year. But for many of us, the weather is a fickle friend. Temperatures can and do plunge below freezing, late snow storms dust elevated surfaces and grassy areas, and a long day can still mean dinner after sundown. A quick soup is the perfect recipe for any or all of these scenarios.

Part of what gives this chowder its allure is its sheer simplicity. From start to finish, this chowder is ready in about 45 minutes. That means that you can put together the Irish Soda Bread after you start in on the chowder. Hot, fresh bread from the oven; hot creamy chowder ladled from the pot; dinner certainly won’t taste any fresher. The unmistakable tastes of sweet corn kernels and fire-roasted poblano peppers hint at the summer warmth that is only a few short weeks away. So get the last of your cold-weather comfort foods out of the way before it’s too hot to enjoy standing next to a warm oven.

For this chowder we need two pounds of corn kernels, either frozen and thawed or fresh off the cobb. Canned corn should not be used in this recipe since the canning process includes added salt and the kernel consistency is too soft. If you are using fresh off the cobb, briefly blanch the whole cobb and then slice the kernels close to the cobb using either an electric knife or serrated bread knife with the cobb elevated. An angel food pan or 4-inch tube pan is the perfect multi-tasker for this job. The corn cobb fits perfectly on top of the tube, and the kernels fall cleanly away into the pan itself. Should you not have access to whole sweet corn, frozen corn is almost indistinguishable in this chowder. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to use and procure.

Lastly, we’ll need a couple of poblano peppers. Look for firm, dark green specimens without blemishes or bruises. These peppers have a mild heat, ranging from 2-3 on a 10-point heat scale with jalapeños being a 4-5, and scotch bonnets (and their hellish ilk) being a 10. If you’re into the Scoville scale, a bell pepper rates a 0, banana peppers, pimentos, pepperochinis and the like are below 500; poblanos can range from 500-2,500 which also includes peppers such as anaheims and rocotillos. The jalapeño ranges from 2,500-8,000 where we start to get into the more serious heat of seranaos, cayennes and tobascos that can exceed 25,000 units. The aforementioned scotch bonnets range from 100,000-350,000 units.

To put this in perspective, pepper spray, the stuff you incapacitate baddies with is in the 2 million to 5.3 million units and pure capsaicin reaches 15 to 16 million units. With all that being said, choose your peppers accordingly and use standard protective gear when handling them such as rubber dishwashing gloves. Barehanded pepper processing of poblanos will probably give you a mild chemical burn that lasts about an hour and is generally not that bad. Handling cayennes and tobascos without gloves can result in hours of misery. Processing will consist of fire-roasting, peeling and dicing. It’s not recommended to rinse fire-roasted peppers under water, but since they’ll be going into a chowder, rinsing them under water to remove the skins and seeds won’t alter the flavor as much. Choose whichever method works best for you.

The snow is mostly gone, the warm weather is fast approaching. End winter on a tasty note with this delicious corn chowder.

Corn Chowder

  • 2 pounds whole sweet kernel corn, thawed or fresh
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup white onion, minced finely
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon fresh ground kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1-3 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced 

Tomato Relish

  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • jumbo lump crab meat, picked clean of shell and cartilage 

Dice, seed and season the tomatoes. Refrigerate until you are ready to use. Roast the peppers directly on the flames of a gas stove top or gas grill until the skins have blackened. Do not allow the peppers to catch fire or the skin to burn to ash. Place the peppers in a heat-proof dish and seal with the lid or plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to steam for 15 minutes. Peel the peppers, under water if desired, removing the stems and seeds. Dice in ½ inch  pieces. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter and sweat the onion over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat for an additional minute. Do not brown the garlic and onions. Add the corn, chicken broth, sugar, salt and peppers and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Blend 3 cups of the corn with its liquid in a blender until it’s smooth being careful to press the lid of the blender down firmly covered with a tea towel while blending to avoid hot soup exploding out of the blender. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to blend half the chowder in a separate bowl until it’s smooth. Return the blended soup to the dutch oven and heat through. Add the cream and diced poblanos stirring to combine.

Ladle the soup into bowls or crocks. Top with a generous portion of tomato relish and jumbo lump crab meat.