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This week marks Colorado’s 140th birthday…and the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival! In honor of those happy occasions, a soup based on our famous Olathe (pronounced o-LAY-tha) sweet corn seemed right for dinner. While I make lots of soup come cold weather, I do still make it in the summer–just not quite as often. 

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Pike’s Peak — taken from my front yard.

In honor of those happy occasions, a soup based on our famous Olathe (pronounced o-LAY-tha) sweet corn seemed right for dinner. While I make lots of soup come cold weather, I do still make it in the summer–just not quite as often.  More than once, however, I’ve been pushed to create something using our Colorado green chiles, gorgeous Colorado potatoes, tender Colorado goat cheese (I like Haystack) and Olathe sweet corn all at the same time. (See bottom of post for other Colorado-type soups.) This time, however, the corn was so tender and fresh that I thought it deserved a soup where it became the star of the show–not just another lucky ingredient.

You and I are probably alike in buying sweet corn when it’s 1. cheapest and 2. sweetest. Because that’s when it’s the best.  Olathe corn is 6 for $1 right now, so I had Dave grill 6 ears last night. No need to let it get old.  We ate two.  There are, if I do the math right, 4 left.  Or about 2 cups of corn in cooking terms.  Just enough with which to lace an earthy western chowder.

 If you are interested, Olathe corn is so toothsome and popular that it has its own festival and it’s this Saturday, August 6, 2016. (Always the first Saturday in August.)  Olathe,  a very small town, is in a plateau just north of the San Juan Mountains, 10 miles north of Montrose, Colorado, in the southwest quadrant of the state.

Info on the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival here. Go get some so you can try this chowder! (I did buy mine at the local grocery store.)

Olathe Sweet Corn Festival (OSCF)

Since 1992, this annual town festival[11] has been held the 1st Saturday in August each summer, dedicated to the region’s “agricultural jewel”, Olathe Sweet Corn. The Festival features such entertainment as craft shows, karaoke, local acts, like the Anders BrothersCabin Fever Band, and concerts by bigger names like Three Dog Night in 1996, Kansas in 1998, Styx in 2004, LeAnn Rimes in 2007, Travis Tritt in 2008, and Clint Black in 2009. Any proceeds go to local non-profit groups.

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Here’s a bacon-free version of the soup. See cook’s notes for instructions for a vegan version.

GRILLED OLATHE SWEET CORN AND CHICKEN CHOWDER

6 servings     Doubles easily

While I’ve used leftover grilled corn here because I like the taste, you can use boiled corn or frozen corn.  Fresh corn would also work perfectly well as the cobs help make a tasty broth and the corn cooks very quickly.

  • Olive oil
  • 3 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Generous pinch crushed red pepper or 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 each, sliced medium, peeled carrots and trimmed celery
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 small-medium new red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (don’t peel)
  • 4 ears grilled Olathe corn; husked and silk removed, kernels cut off (Reserve the cobs as they’ll be added, too.)
  • 4 ounces fresh plain Colorado goat cheese such as Haystack Mountain, crumbled
  • 3 green onions (scallions), sliced thinly–green and white parts (garnish)
  • 6  sprigs fresh thyme (garnish)

In a 6-quart heavy pot, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat and sauté chopped bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve for garnish.  Carefully pour out or spoon the bacon grease into a heat-proof container, leaving 2 tablespoons in the bottom of the pot.

Add diced chicken to hot pot; season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown.  Add onion, carrots,  and celery; cook, stirring, until vegetables are softening and chicken is browned. Add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.

Pour in broth and water. Raise heat; bring to a boil. Lower to simmer; add potatoes and corn cobs to flavor broth.  Cook 10 minutes; add corn kernels. Cook until all vegetables are tender. Remove cobs and discard. With a potato masher, mash through soup lightly and briefly–just to thicken a bit, not to purée.

Add goat cheese and stir until melted. Taste, adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with reserved bacon, green onions, and a sprig of fresh thyme for each bowl. (Diners should pull the thyme leaves off into the bowl before eating soup. This truly makes the soup!)

Cook’s Notes:  Want a vegan version? Replace the bacon and bacon grease with olive oil. Leave out the chicken.  Use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth and skip the goat cheese.  If you’d like a creamy soup, try adding some nut milk at the end and heating through.

Info on cooking sweet corn three ways.  (Many thanks to kitchn.com)

PRINTABLE RECIPE: GRILLED OLATHE SWEET CORN AND CHICKEN CHOWDER

If you like this chowder, you may like my other recipes that use Colorado goodies for soup:

Colorado Two-Potato Stew with Roasted Green Chiles and Cheese

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or my Smoky Green Chile Shrimp Corn Chowder

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Sing a new song; make a new chowder,

Alyce