Come September, I play a little game with myself. It’s called Fake Fall. It involves sweater-buying, soup-eating, pumpkin-stalking and all activities that help me forget the actual weather outside. (Where I live, autumn arrives at the end of October.) Making cheddar corn chowder on a Sunday is one of my favorite activities. The house smells autumnal, Tyson watches football on TV, and we nestle in with bacon-topped bowls.

I started with the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe and lightened it considerably so that I could fit in my sweaters and have my soup, too. I halved the fat, replaced the cream with milk, and amplified the corn flavor instead. I like it better than the original.

Recipe: The Barefoot Contessa’s Cheddar Corn Chowder, Lightened Up

  • 6 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 2 T good olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons¬† unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups medium-diced yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled (1 pound)
  • 5 cups corn kernels, fresh (5 ears) or frozen (1 1/2 pounds), cobs reserved if you’re using fresh corn
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated, plus more for topping

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off and discard the bacon drippings in the pan, except 1-2 tablespoons. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and reserve the corn and the cobs. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, and corn cobs, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Remove cobs and discard. Add the corn to the soup, then add the milk and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon and additional cheese.

Trick: if you lighten up the Barefoot Contessa’s Cheddar Corn Chowder for dinner, then you can absolutely have her peach-raspberry crisp for dessert. And that — that is worthy of every smidge of butter you can cram inside.

P.S. Remember that time I received a thank-you note from the Barefoot Contessa herself? Every time I see it in my drawer, I want to order orange-script stationery.