I started making this chowder a while ago, when I missed the chicken corn chowder that was ubiquitous in central Pennsylvania; even my alma mater, Dickinson College, had a version they served on a regular basis. My guess is that the strong Amish influence dictates this soup’s presence on the menus of restaurants in that part of the country. Not all versions are good. Some end up looking and tasting like creamed corn with small pieces of chicken here and there. Truthfully, most iterations are pretty bland, but comforting all the same.
When the first course was served at the Outstanding in the Field meal, (see post, “Simply Outstanding“) I was pleased to see Mindy Segal’s refined take on corn chowder make it to our plate. It was velvety, rich, and served with a perfectly seasoned (and cooked) slice of sausage in the center of the dish. Immediately, my brain started taking notes on how I would turn this elegant appetizer into a hearty meal – something I do quite often, I guess. Essentially, the result is a hybrid of chef Segal’s version and the chowder from my college days. I took cues from the flavors I noted in her soup, most importantly, the fresh coriander that we saw growing in the garden around us. Though I did not have access to the fresh version, the dried coriander seed I had in my cupboard was a good stand-in. Beyond this, I knew that fresh corn was a must, as well as good chicken stock.
For the sausage component, I thought about using Andouille, but decided that I wanted something less smoky and with a little more kick, so settled on Chorizo. Now, I know that there are two kinds of Chorizo available, but I had only worked with the dry, Portugese variety before this. I was a stranger to Mexican Chorizo before this adventure, but I think that the results were pretty good. The texture is very different from dry Chorizo – more like a mousse or a pate. In keeping with Mindy’s inspiration, I kept it separate for serving, which worked really well for the presentation.
As an accompaniment, I decided to draw a little more freshness out of the coriander/cilantro flavor (coriander is just the seed of cilantro) and make a spread out of goat cheese and cilantro to serve on little toasts. I like something with crunch to go with soup, and with no actual cream in the soup, goat cheese seemed like a good compliment. The coolness of the coriander cut the heat of the sausage, too. All in all, I think this was a pretty successful reinterpretation, and a good soup to transition into the autumn months.
Let me know what you think!