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Recipes and Stories

24 July 2015: Chicken and Corn Chowder

Savannah Chicken and Corn Chowder, photographed in the dining room of the Historic Green-Meldrim House by John Carrington Photography

25 July 2015 Chicken and Corn Chowder

A lovely compensations for the intense, wet heat that settles over Savannah each summer like a warm wet blanket, is fresh sweet corn. And a popular, if a bit ironic, way of having that corn is in chowder, a rich yet simple soup that has been a fixture in Savannah for at least a century.

Recipes for it have been turning up in community cookbooks since the end of the nineteenth century, and its variations are legion. In summer, during the height of corn season it’s sometimes made with shrimp or crab—either in addition to, or instead of, the chicken, but it’s also a popular cold weather supper when made with frozen corn and small, briny-sweet local oysters.

Many Savannahians buy extra Silver Queen corn while it’s in season and brave the heat to put it up in the freezer just to so they can have a little bit of summer sunshine in the dead of winter.

But don’t let a little heat make you miss out on having it now, while the corn is fresh from the garden.

Savannah Chicken and Corn Chowder
Serves 6 as a first course, 4 as a main dish

4 to 6 ears sweet white corn such as Silver Queen
4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, trimmed, split lengthwise, peeled, and diced small
2 large ribs celery, strung and diced small
2 cups homemade chicken broth or 1 cup canned broth mixed with 1 cup water, even if the label says use full strength
2 cups whole milk
Salt and whole black pepper in a peppermill
Ground cayenne
Whole nutmeg in a grater
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fine soft white breadcrumbs, firmly packed
2 cups small-diced cooked chicken
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion tops
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Shuck, silk, and wash the corn. Cut enough kernels from the cob to make 3 cups.

2. Sauté the bacon in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot over medium heat until it is golden brown and its fat is rendered. Add the onion and celery, and sauté until translucent and softened but not colored, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, and the corn. Bring it to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the milk and season well with salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg. Let it come back to a simmer.

3. Add the cream, breadcrumbs, and chicken and simmer, stirring often, until the crumbs dissolve completely and the chowder is thick, about 10 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings, ladle into warmed bowls, and sprinkle with green onions and parsley.

A nice and popular variation is Seafood Corn Chowder: You can just add shrimp and picked lump crabmeat to the soup as is, or substitute shellfish broth for the chicken broth and 8 ounces (1 tightly packed cup) of picked crabmeat and 2 dozen small peeled and deveined shrimp for the chicken meat. Some cooks also add a cup of our small but big-flavored local oysters.

Adapted from The Savannah Cookbook, copyright © 2008 by Damon Lee Fowler, all rights reserved.

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