3 tbsp. butter
1 leek, halved lengthwise, whites and light greens sliced into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons
2 shallots or 1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb. (1 large or 2 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 jalapeños, chopped, or red Fresno peppers for less heat, or 1 of each
1 tbsp. smoked hot or smoked sweet paprika
1 tbsp. chile powder (ancho for mild or Gebhardt for medium heat)
1 tbsp. ground mustard
2 large bay leaves
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp. flour
1 quart chicken stock or vegetable stock
3 cups fresh scraped corn or 3 cups frozen fire-roasted corn kernels
1 tbsp. hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (optional)
For Serving: Chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, pickled jalapeño rings, oyster crackers or saltines or crumbled Ritz crackers
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leek, shallots, garlic, potatoes, jalapeños, paprika, chile powder, ground mustard, and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot, leaving the lid ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for a minute to coat. Whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the corn, hot sauce, and Worcestershire. Cover; simmer until the chowder thickens, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the half-and half and cheese, if using. Stir until the cheese melts. Discard the bay leaves.
Serve the chowder in shallow bowls with your choice of toppings.
Note: For a meatier option, top the chowder with crispy bacon or browned Mexican chorizo crumbles. Or add crabmeat and diced avocado for a cool balance to the spicy soup.