Ahhhhh corn season. That time of the year for those of us living in an urban environ to wake early and race to the farmer's market as SOON as it opens lest we be left with the poor pickin's.
When I grew up my Grandma had a huge garden and I was always instructed to "not pick the corn until the water was boiling", but as we all know, unless you have 40 acres or a really good sunny yard with nary a raccoon in sight you too will have to get your corn the same way as the rest of us.
Frozen from the Green Giant, trucked in from Florida or Californian or from your local farm or farmer's market.
When I arrived at the Waltham market at 10:00 on a gorgeous, breezy, and cool Saturday morning toting my grandmother's harvest basket and some green in my wallet, it was obvious that this was not a good year for corn. There were barely two baskets worth on the table and people were standing like linebackers hunched over as much space as they could occupy, ripping each ear open and in most cases, discarding them to the side with a hearty huff or tssssk. I sidled alongside and began my single minded pursuit of obtaining 6 ears of corn. Hopefully not worm eaten, not with kernels the size of cow corn, and certainly not shucked on site and shoved in a bag. I quickly tore down the husk an inch or two on a few ears and noticed that the top inch of most of this corn hadn't formed any kernels or perhaps a few scattered on the top, but these certainly weren't stellar examples. This Spring must have done a real number on corn farmers. I know of many whose first planting simply rotted in the ground and they had to waste time waiting for the ground to dry out before they could plant a second round. This meant a shorter growing season. Perhaps more glorious corn is to come a little later, but for now I laid 6 of the most perfect ears that I could find in my basket. I stopped at a few more stands and picked up some green beans and fingerlings for later in the week.
As I wandered back to my truck I started debating what I would make tonight. Husband would be having his version of tuna salad which is more like a composed variation of a Nicoise with no dressing, not even a drop of lemon juice or extra virgin, no thanks. While on my other errands I gathered two poblano chilies and some crema from the Spanish markets. Each time I got back in the truck the smell of the corn would taunt me so I decided than and there that I would make some sort of corn chowder.
In the end I lit the grill and started the poblano roasting. Then I took each ear of corn, tore the husk down, but not off, cleaned out the silk and pulled the husk back up and dabbed some butter on each ear. I laid these on the grill, with the poblano and a few slices of vidalia onion, and kept turning them as the husks roasted and imparted a smoky smell and the corn heated inside. I pulled them off the heat, let them cool and sliced the kernels off each cob, going back over the cob a second time with the back of my knife to let out the milk on each cob. I peeled and seeded the poblano and sliced it into strips and then across into small chunks.
During my journey, I had stopped at John Dewar and picked up a gorgeous chunk of pancetta. I chopped the pancetta into chunks and rendered it in a pan. When they were crisp I pulled them to a paper towel and tossed in the grilled vidalia, a few cloves of pan roasted garlic and sauteed it until it was translucent, then I sprinkled on 2 TBS of flour and stirred it for a minute. In another pan I had heated some cream, some milk and a little chicken stock. This was poured over the roux in the pan and stirred scraping up any bits. Once this got thick I tossed in the grilled corn and the roasted poblano and stirred until it became thick. Some smoked salt and some pepper. It cooked for maybe 5 more minutes and then into a bowl it went, topped with a scoop of crema (to guild the lily), sprinkled with some reserved corn and the crisp pancetta.
That was some seriously good chowder. The corn had picked up some smoky flavour and the poblano gave it the right kick of heat, the corn was so sweet and so fresh everything stood out on its own, but worked so well together. Next time I may even replace the pancetta with chorizo to make it even more Mexican. However it happens, this chowder will be a definite repeat.