Makes 2½ to 3 quarts chowder; serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, trimmed and split lengthwise
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
2 Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
Kernels from 4 ears fresh corn (2 cups fresh or frozen corn)
3 roasted red bell peppers, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or chopped fresh parsley
1 cup heavy cream
Fresh chives, to garnish, optional
1. Soak the leeks in a bowl filled with cold water for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain. Slice into ¼-inch rounds and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cook and stir about 15 minutes, until softened. Add the leeks and celery and cook and stir about 10 minutes longer, until the leeks and celery have softened. Add the garlic and cook and stir about 2 minutes more.
3. Add the broth and potatoes and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn, roasted red peppers, salt, black pepper, and thyme and simmer about 15 minutes longer. Remove the pot from the heat and add the chives.
4. Remove about 4 cups of the mixture from the pot and cool slightly. Place the cooled soup in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree until smooth. Return this mixture to the soup and stir until well blended.
5. Stir in the cream and reheat over low heat, stirring constantly, until heated through. Serve immediately, garnished with chives if desired.