The perfect Iowan recipe: corn chowder from the Bushnell’s Turtle cookbook

After hearing of a popular Iowa City restaurant named after her ancestor’s invention, one DI arts reporter set out to cook and review three recipes from the restaurant’s cookbook. For her third and final recipe, she made and reviewed the corn chowder.


Hannah Kinson

The Daily Iowan Arts reporter Addie Bushnell poses for a portrait after making corn chowder from The Original Recipes of the Bushnell’s Turtle on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

Addie Bushnell, Arts Reporter

When I moved to Iowa City in 2016, I had no idea that a popular restaurant named after my Revolutionary War era ancestor, David Bushnell, had existed in the Pedestrian Mall from 1976 to 1994.

In order to explore and honor the legacy of the restaurant — named Bushnell’s Turtle after the wartime submarine built by Bushnell — I decided to cook and review three recipes from The Original Recipes of the Bushnell’s Turtle, a cookbook that can be found in Prairie Lights.

While I had the chance to cook only three recipes, the cookbook is full of delicious meals. Sherri Zastrow, who owned and ran the Bushnell’s Turtle alongside her husband at the time, the late Ed Zastrow, listed off some of the most popular recipes.

“It always amazes me what people say was their Bushnell’s Turtle favorite,” Zastrow said. “We were known for our carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and our soups were always good. We made two varieties per day.”

Hannah Kinson
The Daily Iowan Arts reporter Addie Bushnell grinds pepper while following a corn chowder recipe from The Original Recipes of the Bushnell’s Turtle on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

So far, I’ve cooked two recipes from the cookbook: the hot turkey sandwich with broccoli cheese sauce and the apple torte with butter sauce. For my third and final recipe, I chose to cook the corn chowder in order to pay homage to Iowa’s favorite vegetable.

To begin the corn chowder, I prepped by chopping an onion, cutting two potatoes into bite sized pieces, and frying four strips of bacon cut into small pieces. Once the bacon had begun to turn crispy, I added the chopped onions to the frying pan.

Next, I boiled eight cups of water along with two tablespoons of chicken soup base. Once the water was bubbling, I added the potatoes, onions, and bacon and let them boil until they were tender. Then, I added the most important ingredient: two cups of frozen corn.

After adding a few teaspoons of thyme and pepper, I let the boiling mixture of veggies sit on medium heat while I worked on whipping up a roux. Once I had the roux to the consistency of pancake batter, I began to add it to the pot of veggies. The roux makes the broth of the soup creamy and thick for that perfect chowder consistency.

At first, the roux just floated in little clumps at the top of the soup, but once I turned up the heat, it began to mix into the broth. The soup quickly went from watery to creamy, and turned a milky, buttery color.

Video: Bushnell’s Turtle Cookbook Series: Corn Chowder

I ladled the soup into a bowl and topped it with freshly ground pepper. The first bite of the soup was pretty good, but I felt that something was missing. The recipe doesn’t call for any salt, and it made the chowder a little bit bland.

Once I added a healthy amount of salt to my bowl, the chowder became absolutely delicious. It was the perfect consistency: thick and creamy, and the corn and onions added a burst of sweetness to the overall mildness of the soup.

This recipe would be great for vegetarians as well—just remove the bacon from the ingredient list. It would also be wonderful to use fresh corn when it’s in season rather than frozen corn.

The corn chowder is my favorite of the three recipes I cooked from The Original Recipes of the Bushnell’s Turtle. The success of this meal was a great way to end my Bushnell’s Turtle review series. Although the beloved Bushnell’s Turtle closed its doors permanently in ‘94, the spirit of the restaurant lives on in the cookbook, which will hopefully be enjoyed by Iowa City residents for years to come.