Kemp’s Creamy Cream-less Chile Corn Chowder

Ancho (Ahn-cho) Chile (Capsicum Annum) means Wide Chile Pepper. This chile ranges from 3 – 4 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. An Ancho is the dried form of a Poblano Pepper and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper. Anchos have sweet fruity flavor with hints of cherry, prune, and fig. Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the Holy Trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000. 

Suggested Use:
Anchos are great in salsa, soups, enchilada and any sauce needing mild heat and chile flavor. Chopped, pureed or ground, they can be added directly to your recipes.

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6 ears corn, brown tessels, trimmed off, then shucked, reserving silk
5 cups water
1 large white onion, chopped
3 Tbsp fat (bacon fat, lard, unsalted butter, or oil)
2 dried ancho chiles (see note above), wipe clean
3 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1 lb boiling potatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Chopped Cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce

Corn chowder doesn’t have to be ivory pale with milk or cream to taste creamy. The meaty pulp of reconstituted dried chiles gives this clay-red soup the requisite lush mouthfeel and body. If you think the chiles will overpower the sweetness of the corn, relax. Ancho chiles, which are readily available in supermarkets, are more fruity than spicy. If you can’t find anchos, go for New Mexico chiles, but be aware they will add a bit more heat. Learn about the origins of this recipe in our series The Home Cook.

Cut kernels from cobs, then scrape pulp from cobs with back of knife and reserve corn (with pulp) and cobs separately. Break cobs in half or thirds and combine with corn silk, water, and 1/2 tsp salt in a 4-qt pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Strain corn broth through a sieve into a bowl.

While broth is simmering, cook onion in fat with 1/4 tsp salt in a 5-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Slit chiles lengthwise, then discard stem, seeds, and ribs. Heat a dry heavy skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until hot, then toast chiles 1 at a time, opened flat, turning and pressing with tongs, until more pliable and slightly changed in color, about 30 seconds.

Transfer chiles to a blender with 2 cups hot corn broth and let soak, covered, until softened, about 20 minutes.

While chiles soak, add garlic to heated dry skillet and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until blackened in spots, about 4 minutes. Add garlic to blender.

Peel and dice potatoes.

When chiles are softened, add 1 cup corn kernels and purée until smooth.

Reheat onion mixture in pot until hot, then add chile purée and cook over medium heat, stirring, 3 minutes (mixture will spatter). Add potatoes and remaining corn broth and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are just tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in remaining corn kernels and simmer until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, thinning with water if necessary.

Just before serving, stir in cilantro, lime juice, and salt to taste.

Cooks’ note: Chowder, without cilantro or lime juice, can be made 4 days ahead and chilled. Reheat gently, thinning with water.

Serves 6.