The Dorothy Project: Truck stop corn chowder.

I mean, c’mon: How can you not love a soup called “Truck Stop Corn Chowder”? I wish I knew the origin — which truck stop, and where — of this recipe that my grandma Dorothy clipped from the Indianapolis Star. It isn’t sourced, or dated. Just meticulously cut out of the paper and tucked into the Soups folder of her “Kitchen Klips” file.

Needless to say, Truck Stop Corn Chowder immediately caught my eye when I was flipping through Dorothy’s collection of old recipes. I don’t recall her making this soup specifically, or her calling the soup “Truck Stop Corn Chowder,” but it’s a recipe that just feels like something she would make. She was definitely a soup girl.

I love that this recipe, unlike so many vintage recipes, calls for fresh ingredients: no canned or frozen vegetables here. It’s a real farmers’ market recipe. And it seems perfectly attuned to the season.

The original recipe called for salt pork, which you can certainly use (or pancetta), but I used bacon instead because I had it on hand. Since pretty much every soup known to humankind is better the day after it’s made, I prepared this recipe up to the point of adding the milk and cream, then let the soup cool and refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I reheated it to a simmer, added the dairy, and let the soup simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until it was warmed through. With any cream-based soup, you want to be sure the soup does not boil, lest it separate and get clumpy.

I also wanted to freeze half the batch, so I transferred some of the cool soup — without the cream and milk — to a container for the freezer. I labeled the container “add 3/4 cup cream and 3/4 cup milk before gently reheating,” so I’d know to add the dairy later.

I’d really like to know what truck stop serves great soup like this …

[Edit: So, apparently, the prolific food writers Jane and Michael Stern discovered this soup at the Keep On Truckin’ Cafe on I-91 in Vermont, at the recommendation of cookbook editor Judith Jones and her husband, Evan. So it has an excellent provenance.]

Truck Stop Corn Chowder Recipe

serves 6

5 slices thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cups water or vegetable broth
3 medium redskin potatoes, diced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
6 ears corn, kernels removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, cook bacon over medium-low heat until crispy; transfer to a plate. Add onion and stir to coat with bacon drippings; sauté over medium-low heat until golden (do not burn drippings), about 5 minutes. Add broth and potatoes; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer until potatoes are tender, 10–15 minutes. Add corn and tomatoes; return to a simmer and cover. Simmer until corn is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in butter; taste and adjust seasonings. (Note: If you want to freeze half of the chowder, transfer it to a large bowl and cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-proof container. Label the container to add 3/4 cup cream and 3/4 cup milk before reheating.) Stir in milk and cream; bring soup to a simmer over low heat and cook, without boiling, until soup is heated through. Stir in bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning. To reheat leftover soup, warm over a gentle heat until it simmers — do not boil.

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